Police and the Licensing officers conduct “Operation Impact” along the South Trunk Road, La Romaine, in August. Vehicles were checked for numerous offences, including defective tyres and lack of insurance.

The Licensing Division is moving to implement new drivers’ permits (DPs) by month’s end.

The initiative is aimed at stopping false drivers’ licenses from being produced by fraudsters and which are now widely used by Venezuelans and T&T nationals. It is unknown how many of these fake DPs are in the hands of non-nationals.

However, Transport Commissioner Clive Clarke, in a face-to-face interview on Thursday with Guardian Media at the Ministry of Works and Transport headquarters in Port-of-Spain, confirmed that some of the holders of fraudulent permits are Venezuelans while some bogus licenses have been engaging the attention of the T&T Police Service.

Speaking in the presence of Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, Clarke said one way of stopping the forged permits being used was by issuing new permits with security features and hidden markings by the end of this year and recalling the over 700,000 valid permits in the coming months.

Clarke made it clear that the fake permits were being replicated by individuals outside the ambit of their offices.

Since his appointment in March 2020, Clarke said Licensing Division has picked up a number of false permits containing names, addresses and dates of births of legitimate drivers, while the photograph bears the image of someone else.

False permits tend to carry the same numbers as legitimate permits.

“We have seen an upsurge in duplicate numbers where persons are having false driver’s permits being created on the outside. In order for that to look as close as possible to our records, they are basically using what we call our number range. But that is in no way on our records,” Clarke said.

Pressed on how many fake permits they have been picked up under his tenure, Clarke said roughly 700.

The Licensing Division has over 700,000 registered drivers on its database.

In January, Clarke said they will introduce an online provisional system using codes for every service transaction. This system will pave the way for the renewal of permits and vehicle transfers online.

“By the end of December, a new driver’s permit will be out. That permit itself provides us with the data set and the environment to commence that online renewal. Because we are changing the design of the permit, you will have the opportunity to upload your picture onto the permit.”

Following this process, the applicant, Clarke said, would have to visit a licensing office to verify their documents.

Collection of the renewal will have to be made at a TTConnect site or a Licensing Office with the old DP being surrendered.

“What would happen there…a number of persons would not be able to submit that (their expired permits and documents) because they are walking around bogus permits right now,” Clarke said.

Without divulging too much, Clarke boasted that the new permits will be embedded with enhanced security features and markings aimed at preventing duplication. The special markings will be detected by law enforcement officers using handheld devices.

If a permit does not have these markings it will be deemed fraudulent.

He said the new permits will also have “what we call ghost pictures.” A ghost image is a smaller version of an original photo on a card and is usually printed in a semi-transparent form.

Clarke said the design for the new permits has already been completed.

“They are being printed and tested,” Clarke revealed.

He said only drivers with renewal appointments will be issued new permits beginning at the end of December.

A recall of unexpired permits will follow.

“I will be recommending to the Minister and our Permanent Secretary for consideration, that we implement a recall mechanism subject to their approval. What the introduction of new driver’s permits will allow us the opportunity, whereby we could recall those lookalikes of the old ones and generate something that is more difficult to reproduce.”

Clarke said the recall of valid permits will commence next June using either an alphabetical system or geographical locations.

“We will advise the minister what are the best options because we would have to look at fewer crowds and make it more manageable.”

He said the system in place at Licensing Division does not contribute to the duplication of permits.

“Any duplication of permits has to be permits that are generated on the outside through fraudulent means…clones,” he said.

Clarke said there are two types of permits in existence.

“We have one with the bird (holographic) and the old ones.”

The old ones could have been renewed for ten years.

“You have persons with some of those still…and ideally speaking, they should have discontinued that because those are the ones in particular…what you are seeing…with all due respect, the Venezuelans all over the place with it because it is easy to make those…those are the ones you are seeing them with. In fact, it is rampant!”

Clarke could not say where or how the fraudulent permits are being made.

“That is a matter the police are looking at to see where they are generating those. It is not just the Venezuelans. We are seeing local citizens with fraudulent DPs. We are seeing persons from different parts of the region with them.”

Clarke said recently, Licensing Division was contacted by the Fraud Squad concerning a fake permit that was used in a bank in South Trinidad to conduct a transaction.

“And that DP the person had was our exact material. When you look at it at face value, it appeared as ours but it was not one of our products. Two things…the top layer of the DP was shifty and when we looked up that DP in our system, it was in somebody else’s name and address.”

Clarke also disclosed that there are about 800 vehicles that have duplicated registration numbers as well.

“We would have rectified a high number of them. My last check was about 350 thereabout.”

The duplication, Clarke said, occurs in two ways. The first involved an old system where numbers were given out to different licensing offices.

“And over the years, they sometimes mixed up those numbers….they mixed the batch. You may find in a situation 15 numbers may have been given out through that system. Therefore, when we check our records we are seeing both vehicles in our registration books. It is easy to treat with those. Those are called administrative errors.”

Secondly, he said, people have been cloning the numbers, which they have been detecting on their electronic system.

Clarke said the only time the Licensing Division will get total sanitisation of vehicle registration is by implementing the new license plates currently being procured.

“It will give us the opportunity to recall all vehicles and revisit what we call a revaluation process.”

Saying he was concerned about the perception of fraud at Licensing Offices, Clarke said once there are poor systems in place and “people are willing to participate in practices contrary to procedures …that equates to corruption.”