Thursday, May 26

Police uncover hundreds of fraudulent entries in vaccination records


European covid passport. / AFP

The CNP dismantles the first network of false covid passports, which moved in denial forums and had the help of health personnel

Melchor Saiz-Pardo

The National Police has dismantled the first network in Spain to issue false covid passports. The police coup – which has so far resulted in six detainees in Madrid and one in Barcelona – has uncovered a vast criminal network at a European level that in Spain would not only have issued hundreds of false documents, but would also have facilitated fraudulent registration of at least 1,600 people in the National Vaccination Registry with the help of health personnel.

This network, which was advertised in instant messaging applications taking advantage of denialist-themed groups, offered both false PCR tests, as well as forged covid passports or, in the case of the wealthiest, registration directly in the health archives.

The operation, which is still open, has allowed the detection and identification of the leaders of the criminal organization that operated from France. In Spain, those arrested face an accusation of document falsification and crimes against public health, charges that the hundreds of people who obtained false immunization documentation throughout Spain could also face shortly.

key theft

The most disturbing part for the investigators is that the network would have captured health personnel who entered those who required false certifications into the registry. In addition, the Police suspect the possible theft of access codes to the national registry. Some passwords “with which they also registered unvaccinated people so that they could see the complete vaccination schedule and they could obtain the documentation they needed.”

As reported on Tuesday by the Ministry of the Interior, the investigation began in early January when advertisements were detected that offered both false PCR tests and falsified covid passports in denialist groups of an instant messaging application. The agents were able to verify that members of criminal groups or their intermediaries had already entered this communication system.

From 50 to 1,000 euros

The prices of the network varied: 50 euros, in the case of issuing negative PCR test certificates, and amounts that ranged between 200 and 1,000 euros in exchange for issuing covid passports containing two or three doses of vaccination. In addition, the researchers were able to verify that, in most cases, the members of the organization demanded payment in cryptocurrencies, through accounts that they had opened in third countries to make tracking by the authorities more complicated.

Once those involved received the payment, the interested parties obtained the QR code that contained the fraudulent vaccination schedule. After two days they could obtain a passport in which two or three doses were recorded as having been received.

Inscription

But the network went much further in its services. The investigations carried out have made it possible to detect that the organization had created two types of patronage networks. One, the most basic, is that of simply obtaining the fraudulent document. And another, with greater purchasing power, which required a payment of 1,000 euros for entering them in the registry with the complete vaccination schedule.

After identifying the intermediaries in Spain of the criminal network, an operation was carried out that allowed the arrest of all of them, as well as the identification of the leaders of the organization. The investigation remains open and new arrests are not ruled out.


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