I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 30 together.
The current Irish passport system is one of the most secure in the world. The taxpayer has made a significant investment in enhancing the security of passports. The passport has been designed to ensure that the technologies used are those strictly controlled and mandated by the relevant international body, ICAO, International Civil Aviation Organisation, in Montreal. Officers of the passport service meet regularly with other similar jurisdictions and ICAO to ensure that Irish passport meet international security demands and best practice.
While the fake Irish passports used by those suspected of involvement in the Dubai assassination were of a type produced before the introduction of the current APS passport in 2005, it must be emphasised that these passports conformed fully to the highest international standards in place at that time. The passport was further enhanced in 2006 with the addition of a biometric chip, the Irish e-passport.
As forgery techniques advance, through the availability of more sophisticated production equipment, it is essential that the security of Irish passports are kept under constant review. It is in this context I announced last week that I have requested the passport service to initiate an ongoing review of passport technology to ensure that the Irish passport continues to be a trusted and secure travel document. The review will include consultations with the ICAO secretariat.
In regard to the issue of the alleged use of counterfeit Irish passports on Sunday 27 June, United States federal agents arrested a number of people for allegedly carrying out long-term, deep-cover assignments in the United States on behalf of the Russian Federation. The individuals were subsequently charged with conspiring to act as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation within the United States and, in the case of some of the individuals, additional charges related to money laundering. The affidavit lodged by the FBI alleges that one of the defendants had travelled to Moscow using a false Irish passport.
Upon hearing of this allegation, I immediately asked the passport service to investigate the matter and to work in close co-operation with An Garda Síochána. Investigations are under way. They are at a very preliminary stage and, therefore, I am not in a position to provide more detail today.
At this time, what we are confronted with is an allegation in a US court that an individual had travelled from Rome to Moscow on a false Irish passport. Our own investigating officers are working to establish the veracity of this allegation and the nature of the evidence to substantiate it. Accordingly, it is premature to reach any conclusions or make representations to other Governments at this time.
I wish to see the current investigations concluded at the earliest opportunity. However, I am conscious that there is a legal process under way in the United States. I am sure Deputies would share with me the necessity not to comment or act in any way that might influence the outcome of these proceedings.