When Saudis fake it to make it

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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A few weeks ago, Saudi police filmed seized items, mainly consisting of stamps, certificates, CDs and letters. All of the items were forgery tools used to create a plethora of fake documents.

The police dealt with the items just like any drugs and weapons seizure. They said they were found in an integrated lab that has tools that allow the forging of university degrees and other certificates related to private, local and foreign institutes.

When an engineer is not a real engineer and a doctor not a real doctor, who pays for the crimes committed as a result of forged certificates?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

It has also seized a total of 32 stamps and seals belonging to Saudi and foreign universities, colleges and institutes, in addition to forging seals belonging to government departments. More than 16,000 forged certificates were seized, some of which were ready to be delivered.

The Telegraph newspaper knew about this scandal and reported that 15,000 engineers from Saudi Arabia who went to work in the UK may be holding fake degrees. The main cause of the spread of these fake certificates is the growth in electronic and print forgery methods and the negligence to verify applicants’ documents.

In the past, this was not a major problem, as it was limited and the counterfeiters were just using these forged certificates and documents to decorate the walls of their offices.

Today, it has become a serious issue because there are hundreds of thousands of foreigners who are in charge of important positions in the country, such as engineers, doctors, technicians, and who knows who is the real doctor and who is the fake? Citizens have also discovered easy ways to buy fake certificates and work illegally. When the engineer is not a real engineer and the doctor not a real doctor, who pays for the crimes committed as a result of forged certificates?

Beyond social prestige

This issue was not important back when higher degrees were just social prestige, but today it has become a means for financial gain, where the holders of these forged degrees get a job and increase their income. The PhD for instance increases salaries by more than 20 percent than those with a lesser degree.

In fact, the counterfeit degree holders are not the sole problem; genuine degree holders who are not qualified to perform critical functions are also a major problem. This is what prompted the British government to set up exams to test doctors coming from Saudi Arabia on their capabilities in their fields. This was due to a high number of recorded medical errors and because of some doctors’ lack of interest to be updated with the latest advances. The certificate alone is not enough to maintain a job.

What we want at this critical stage is to expose the counterfeiters especially that it has become widespread due to the easiness of the fraud operations. These operations are now common almost anywhere in the world for the same reason: fraud for financial purposes. In Dubai for instance, they have arrested an alleged plastic surgeon who did not only have a forged certificate, but he has also impersonated a famous international surgeon.

Since the scammers’ community is a large and developed one, it will not be easy for companies and recruitment departments to discover fraud on their own. The inspection duty should be entrusted to a third party that provides this service for public and private sectors. How do we know if the driver holds a real or counterfeited driving license? How do we know who is the electrician, nutritionist, university professor and who is not?

Is it possible to develop a third party whose function will be to verify one’s credentials?

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 4, 2013.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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