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NARITA, Chiba Pref. (Kyodo) Immigration authorities have successfully detected four people since January trying to enter Japan illegally by trying to fool the biometric identity system.

Officials at Narita International Airport said Monday the four had altered their fingerprints by having patterns surgically removed and stitched or even filed down.

The authentication system is designed to detect foreign nationals with a history of deportation from Japan based on fingerprint data.

The efforts by the four people failed after immigration officers conducted facial checks after fingerprint scanners detected irregularities.

Authorities toughened checks this year following a report that the first known case of illegal entry through cheating a similar authentication system took place last year at Aomori airport.

In that incident, a woman who had been deported for overstaying her visa was found to have slipped through immigration with special tape on her fingers.

The four people detected at Narita were arrested and told Chiba police investigators that their fingerprints were altered with surgery performed in China, where they had paid doctors 5,000 yuan (roughly ¥70,000) for the procedure, according to the police.

Police suspect possible involvement by organized human-traffickers in China.

The biometric identification system was introduced in November 2007 as part of antiterrorism measures under a revised Immigration Control Law.

The law requires the fingerprinting and photographing of foreign nationals 16 and older for screening in a database of people deported or wanted by police.

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