French police investigate rising number of fake Covid vaccine certificates

Police in France are investigating a series of Covid-19 vaccine certificate scams after several doctors reported having their health service accounts hacked.

In the latest incident, one of several forgery rackets under investigation, fraudsters gained access to the online account of a GP near Bordeaux and obtained 55 false documents. Another doctor in Marseilles reported being similarly hacked, and others have told the authorities that there had been attempts to access their accounts.

France’s health authority has reported a growing number of forged certificates, with 46 incidents under police investigation since May. The forgers are also producing fake negative Covid-19 tests.

Several hackers have been put under investigation in recent weeks in Paris, Grenoble and Bordeaux. At the end of last month, a vaccine centre contract worker was jailed after he was found to have generated 200 false QR codes.

Two weeks ago, two women who had been working at a vaccine centre at Bordeaux were arrested and accused of selling fake certificates for between €80 and €150 each. They are being investigated for “fraud, profiting from fraud, and passive corruption” and face up to three years in prison and fines of up to €45,000 if convicted.

Those who bought the fakes are facing fines of up to €2,000.

“Health pass fraud is very serious and is severely punished. Nobody should be cheating with the vaccine,” a local deputy prefect, Martin Guespereau, told journalists.

Public prosecutors believe the codes and certificates are almost certainly catering to hardline unvaccinated opponents of the country’s pass sanitaire, which is necessary for access to most public places, including restaurants, theatres, cinemas, some major shopping centres and for non-emergency hospital treatment.

Guespereau added that one of the arrested women had insisted her motives were not entirely financial.

“She believes that someone who doesn’t want to be vaccinated has the right not to be and still continue to have a normal life without being excluded from certain places,” he said.

In a Paris vaccination centre, a nurse was reportedly caught issuing fake certificates. She allegedly told police she had been handing out approximately a dozen forgeries every day for a month.

Le Figaro reported between 500 and 600 internet searches for “fake declaration” before the president, Emmanuel Macron, said in July that the health pass would be introduced. Within hours of Macron’s announcement, researchers found that the number had soared to more than 4,000.

In an interview with FranceInfo, Jean-Paul Hamon, a GP and honorary president of the Federation of French Doctors, admitted issuing three certificates. However, he insisted he had only done so for two patients who were fully vaccinated and a third who had recovered from Covid-19; all three were eligible for a health pass but were having difficulty downloading the necessary QR code.

“What should I have done? Left these people stuck at home without a health pass when they had the right to one,” he said. “Obviously I’m not about to issue fake vaccine certificates to someone completely unknown to me who turns up without the slightest proof. The three people I gave a QR code to are well known to me and I checked their documents. They should have been able to easily obtain a health pass.”

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