Fake Covid-19 test certificate gang linked to Nigerian clinics

February 4, 2021
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A report by the BBC says some fake Covid-19 test certificates recently discovered with a passenger in one of London’s airport emanated from a clinic in Nigeria, lending credence to the argument that some Nigerians are part of the criminal rings profiting from sales of fake test regardless of the potential health and safety costs.

While the report didn’t specifically mention the names of clinics involved, it said some of the fake tests carried the names of clinics in Nigeria, and therefore warned travelers that fraudulent test certificates are being sold to international travelers to skirt pandemic restrictions.

Illicit sales of fake certificates declaring passengers have tested negative for COVID-19 have been uncovered in Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands, resulting in arrests, including some inside airports.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said criminals are prepared to profit from any opportunity regardless of the potential health and safety costs.

“The detection of fake COVID-19 negative test certificates confirms that criminals — be it organized crime groups or individual opportunistic scammers — seize profitable opportunities once they arise,” said Europol’s intelligence alert issued Monday.

The latest known arrest in a certificate scam in Europe was Jan. 22 in Britain’s London Luton Airport. The airport, north of London, hosts flights to cities in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, several of which require travelers to have proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter.

Shortly before Christmas, Warwickshire authorities in Britain said scammers were offering fake COVID-19 tests for the equivalent of $175 that came with a bogus certificate of negative results. The name of a genuine testing laboratory was used on the certificates.

A woman in Spain was arrested for selling false negative COVID-19 test certificates over the internet for the equivalent of $62. Her ads said many customers had already successfully used her certificates to travel abroad.

In the Netherlands, scammers were caught selling fake test certificates for between about $75 to $100 through WhatsApp and Snapchat. They issued fake certificates in the names of real doctors and real laboratories without conducting any COVID-19 test.

The largest known suspected forgery ring was uncovered at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport, Europe’s second busiest airport, in November. Direct flights from the airport arrive in Montreal and Toronto.

Europol issued the alert to raise awareness of the schemes and encourage member agencies to share information on other local criminal activities related to fake COVID testing documentation.

“Given the widespread technological means available, in the form of high-quality printers and different software, fraudsters are able to produce high-quality counterfeit, forged or fake documents,” Europol said.

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