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The Home Office has gone that extra mile to prove the true costs of identity fraud to us all - it's been conned, big-time. Confronted with a fake doctor one would ideally stride smartly off in the other direction, but in the case of fraudster Barian Baluchi the Home Office opted for funding his clinic, using him as an asylum-seeker health policy adviser and letting him be an expert witness in 1,500 immigration appeals tribunal cases.

Baluchi's earnings from his imaginative career in medicine are reported to be in the region of £1.5 million, and of course (you can almost hear the Home Office saying this) it couldn't have happened if we'd had ID cards. He acquired indefinite leave to remain status in the early 1980 through marriage, but his big career move came in 1998 when he registered as a doctor with the General Medical Council under EU procedures. The GMC, bless, is claimed to have done this on the strength his qualification as a doctor and psychiatrist in Madrid in the 1980s, under the name of Antonio Carrillo-Gómez. One can see the clear similarities between the names. But a Madrid doctor of that name does indeed exist.

Wouldn't have happened if we'd had ID cards. Except of course a Spanish doctor would have had a Spanish ID card. And a British resident (i.e. Baluchi) would have had an ID card, and would just have had to convince the GMC that this genuine identity had for some reason qualified under an entirely different and Spanish name. We have no idea how you'd do that either, but we doubt it'd have been harder than what he did do. Presumably he must have relied, as is the way of good fraudsters, on there being one born every minute. Which is what the Home Office and sundry Government departments and charities proceeded to prove.

According to the report Baluchi "used a string of fake qualifications to set himself up as a leading clinician". The fake qualifications bit is easy, any fool can get these, but it's the second bit that must have taken some talent. Within something like five years he had parlayed no track record at all into "leading clinician." He would have been helped to some extent by the legal system's need for expert witnesses, and to some considerable extent by the immigration legal industry which has been almost entirely generated by the Home Office. This fast-growing business needs experts, many more experts than it needed in 1998, so it's entirely appropriate that the Home Office itself made a significant contribution to strengthening the man's fraudulently-obtained credentials; it needed to believe in him.

Meanwhile the case of Michael Edwards-Hammond, arrested recently for impersonating a police officer at Windsor Castle, shows us how the police handle ID fraudsters. Give him a motorcycle escort? Search and detain people for him? Yes, 'fraid so.

Edwards-Hammond, reports the Telegraph, has been something of a specialist in impersonating a police officer, to the police, and has a string of scalps and previous offences. He has claimed to be a surgeon on his way to save the life of a child and been given a motorcycle escort by the Met. He has had police search innocent members of the public, and an Asian family taken into a custody. And he has had several harmless pedestrians held at gunpoint near Downing Street. That one must have taken confidence.

How, under any circumstances, you stop the forces of law and order saluting people they believe to be their superiors and doing what they say is a puzzle. "Yes chief constable, and I'm the Lord Lyon King of Arms. I'm just going to take your fingerprints now, sir..." That's really going to happen, isn't it? ®

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