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Fake Passports Reveal Iran Intelligence Operations

 The figure of a man with a height of approximately 5,74 feet, with a stocky body and broad chest, walked leisurely towards the Qatar airline reporting counter Airways at Terminal 3 Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Banten, one evening at the end of May 2021. The atmosphere at the airport was quiet. Not many passengers.

Ghassem Saberi Gilchalan, Iranian Intelligence

    However, before the man named Ghassem Saberi Gilchalan arrived at the counter to pick up the departure of the Qatar Airways flight on the Jakarta-Doha, Qatar route, he was stopped by several people. To Gilchalan, they introduced themselves as personnel from the Soekarno-Hatta Airport City Police and Soekarno-Hatta Immigration Office. Gilchalan, who at that time was only carrying a backpack, without saying much followed the officer to a room that was still in Terminal 3 of the airport.

    Gilchalan, a 49-year-old man with fair skin, thin silver hair, and thick eyebrows. He wears rimless glasses. Tattoos are visible on his left and right arms. In the room, the officers' questions were answered casually in English. He spoke in a low intonation.

Bulgarian Passport

    For four hours, she was interviewed and her belongings searched. His identity was also cross-checked by officers. At that time Gilchalan was holding a Bulgarian passport numbered 382509836. However, in his backpack, officers also found two more passports. One expired Bulgarian passport, as well as an Iranian passport that is still valid until 2023. All in his name.

the Malaysian Ex-Police Association Gilchalan

    Not only that, but officers also found Gilchalan carrying a number of Persian-language documents, several cards bearing the members of the Malaysian Ex-Police Association and the PDRM 69 Squad.

SKUAD 69 PDRM Gilchalan

    In addition, officers also found cash in the form of 16 foreign currencies with a nominal value of Rp. 140 million. Not to be left behind, 11 cellular phones, one tablet, one music player, two modems, and several local or foreign SIM cards were also found.

Nokia 3310

    Of the 11 mobile phones, three of them are devices that can only be used to make phone calls and send messages, including Nokia 3310 and 8110. The rest are smartphones like iPhone 5, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 11, and Huawei Y5. Officers were suspicious of seeing so many cell phones that Gilchalan was carrying.

Nokia 8110

"I have friends in several countries, I have to save their numbers," said Head of the Criminal Investigation Unit of the Soekarno-Hatta Airport Police, Adjunct Commissioner Rezha Rahandhi, last September, imitating Gilchalan's answer during interrogation. The police then also checked the authenticity of Gilchalan's Bulgarian passport.

"The Bulgarian Embassy through a written statement stated that the passport was fake. He is not a Bulgarian citizen. Gilchalan also admits that," said Rezha.

    The Iranian passport that Gilchalan was carrying was also checked for authenticity. According to Rezha, the Iranian Embassy in Jakarta acknowledged that Gilchalan was an Iranian citizen. The Kompas team confirmed information regarding Gilchalan on Monday (29/11/2021) to the Iranian Embassy in Jakarta. However, as of Wednesday (8/12), there has been no answer to the question sent.

    Gilchalan was then arrested on suspicion of using a fake passport. He was then tried at the Tangerang District Court, Banten. In mid-September, Gilchalan was sentenced to 2 years in prison and a fine of IDR 100 million. His appeal was rejected last November.

    Already on the "radar" even though he was only caught at the end of May, data on immigration crossings shows that Gilchalan has entered and left Indonesia 30 times in 2012-2021 using Iranian and Bulgarian passports. Iranian passports were used in 2012 and 2019 only for travel to and from their country.

    Meanwhile, Bulgarian passports were used to enter Indonesia from 2013 to 2018 and 2021 from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Australia. A Kompas source in law enforcement said that Gilchalan's suspicious activity had been on the immigration radar since 2020.

    Since then, immigration has been gathering information about Gilchalan and is also working closely with airlines and airport authorities to track down if Gilchalan re-enters Indonesia. Thanks to that cooperation, the opportunity to capture Gilchalan was executed well. 

    The results of the extraction carried out by law enforcement on Gilchalan's 11 cellphones added to the suspicions of the officers. There are not only phone contacts found. There are 400 gigabytes (GB) of data downloaded from these phones.

    Among them were found photos of three Indonesian military and defense officials. There were also scans of 56 passports from the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Belarus. Then also the United States, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan. There are also several passport photos with the same blue background as the photos in some passports. However, some of them have different face shapes, hairstyles, and clothes worn.

MT Horse Tanker

    In addition, there is a photo of the Iranian tanker, MT Horse, whose captain is undergoing criminal proceedings in Indonesia regarding violation of shipping lanes in the waters of Kalimantan when illegally transferring oil to the Panamanian-flagged tanker, MT Freya, January 2021. 

    The captain of the ship who is also an Iranian citizen, Mehdi Monghasemjahromi, and the tanker loaded with 1.8 million barrels of crude oil was detained by the Indonesian authorities in Batam.

    The extraction of the cellphone also shows a screenshot of Gilchalan's conversation with someone in Batam, Riau Islands, related to the tanker MT Horse.

Alleged intelligence activity

    Former Head of the ARMY Strategic Intelligence Agency Rear Admiral (Ret.) Soleman B Ponto said a number of evidence such as fake passports, dozens of cellphones, photos of officials, scans of dozens of passports, and communications with parties related to the MT Horse tanker indicate part of an intelligence operation. For a tourist, a collection of dozens of cell phones is considered unnatural. However, for an intelligence agent, it was commonplace to operate.

    The device is used to communicate and find information regarding the operation being performed. The existence of “Out to Date” cell phones which are not connected to the internet is still needed because it is difficult to trace.

"There are cellphones that are specifically used to receive calls, make calls, and specifically for certain people," he said.

    Police intelligence expert Inspector General (Pensioner) Ansyaad Mbai said the number of passports and passport photos on Gilchalan's cellphone showed that he was not an ordinary person.

"So, from here, it can be seen that this is not an ordinary crime because he has come a long way in preparing the cover, both formally to disguise himself in terms of work, identity. And the information he gave, in my opinion, was also a cover story," he said.

    Director of General Crimes at the National Police-Criminal Investigation Agency Brigadier General Andi Rian said that there had been no cases related to Gilchalan's alleged intelligence operations handled by the Directorate of General Crimes or the Police Criminal Investigation Unit. However, he admitted the information about Gilchalan had already been discussed.

"It's still just a discussion. There is no visible criminal element," he said.

Kompas, Page-1, Thursday, Dec 9, 2021


1 Response to "Fake Passports Reveal Iran Intelligence Operations"

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