PHOTO: AFP / VIDEO: EP

Spanish police smash fake Covid passport network and uncover 1,600 fraudulent entries in the National Vaccination Registry

A criminal gang offered fake PCR tests for 50 euros, forged coronavirus passports for 200 euros or more and, for those who could afford to spend 1,000 euros, registration directly in the health system database

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO

Spain's National Police has dismantled the first known network in Spain to issue fake Covid passports. The police coup, which has so far led to six arrests in Madrid and one in Barcelona, has uncovered a vast Europe-wide criminal network that could not only issue fake documents but could arrange for a health care worker to fraudulently enter data into the National Vaccination Registry. At least 1,600 false entries have already been made.

The singer Omar Montes is among the people investigated for using the criminal services. Other people accused include crime bosses such as 'La Reina de la Coca' and 'El Moli'.

The network advertised their services in instant messaging chat groups for anti-vaxxers. They offered fake PCR tests for 50 euros, forged Covid passports for 200 euros or more and, for those who could afford to spend 1,000 euros, registration directly in the health system. The investigation began in January when the Health Ministry became aware of the adverts.

The investigation, which is ongoing, has identified the network’s leaders in France and Spain. Those arrested face charges of document falsification and crimes against public health, charges that the hundreds of people who obtained false immunisation documentation throughout Spain could also face shortly.

The most disturbing part for the investigators is that the network utilised corrupt or coerced health personnel who entered false information into the system. Police also suspect the possible theft of access codes to the national registry.