Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 16:22 UK

Couriers in 'fake passport raid'

Two van couriers staged a "sham" raid in Greater Manchester in which more than 10,000 blank passports and visas were stolen, a court has heard.

Stephen Shaw and Alan Burke claimed they were robbed by a gang soon after picking up the delivery in Chadderton.

Manchester Crown Court heard the pair were in fact part of the plot to steal 3,650 passports and 8,100 visas.

Burke, 49, from Oldham, has admitted conspiring to steal the passports but Mr Shaw, 57, denies the same charge.

Prosecutor Paul Mitchell said the passports were of "huge potential value to criminals".

It does not require much of an imagination to work out the potential value of genuine blank British passports and visa strips
Peter Mitchell, prosecuting

Six other men, all from Greater Manchester, are also on trial with Mr Shaw, of Drolysden, accused of their part in the £2.5m raid.

Opening the trial, Mr Mitchell said: "It does not require much of an imagination to work out the potential value of genuine blank British passports and visa strips. "

The delivery was collected by the two men in Chatterton, destined for RAF Northolt in Middlesex, on 28 July 2008 on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The court heard Mr Shaw, who was driving the van, said the raiders ambushed the van when he popped into a newsagent and left the van unlocked with his colleague inside on Long Lane.

Examination of the van found there was no sign of forced entry at the rear padlocked doors.

Mr Shaw and Burke, his driver's mate, did not report the robbery until they returned to their place of work in Knutsford, Cheshire 45 minutes later, the jury was told.

Mr Mitchell said there would have been a "reasonable chance" of the raiders being caught if the police had been informed immediately.

He said: "The Crown say there is no question that the robbery was a sham."

Substantial evidence had already been provided with Burke pleading guilty in May to conspiring to steal the passports and visas, he told the jury.



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