A network of fraudsters suspected of creating 62,000 fake health passes has been dismantled in Paris, Lyon and Poitiers.
Five people, aged 22-29, have been arrested. They are accused of hacking into doctors’ computers to steal their identities and then using them to create fake vaccination certificates.
Police say 35 doctors have been affected.
The fraudsters then allegedly sold the fake certificates directly to customers or to accomplices who would then sell them on .
What is the vaccine pass?
The health pass (pass sanitaire) now the vaccine pass (pass vaccinal) is required in France for anyone over 16 to access many recreational public spaces including restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas, and sports halls.
Anyone who is fully vaccinated can access a vaccine pass. If they received their second vaccine dose over seven months ago, they must have also received a booster dose in order to retain a valid pass.
On February 15, the deadline for having a booster dose after your second shot is to be shortened from seven months to four.
The fraud investigation was led by research officers at the gendarmerie in Poitiers, as well as the health and environmental protection agency l’Office central de lutte contre les atteintes à l'environnement et à la santé publique (Oclaesp) and cyberspace police force le Commandement de la gendarmerie dans le cyberespace (ComCyberGend) .
The case has been open since December 15, 2021, the Paris prosecutor said.
Charges are considered likely to include "fraudulent access to and maintenance of an automated data processing system", "instruction of data" in such a system, "forgery", "use of administrative forgeries", "possession of administrative forgeries", "aggravated money laundering" and "criminal association".
It comes after a 57-year-old woman died in hospital in Paris after contracting Covid, but who had presented doctors with a fake vaccination certificate, which delayed correct treatment.
The government has estimated that thousands of fake health passes are currently in use in France. In December, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that more than 400 inquiries had been opened into fake pass ‘networks’, which he said, “often, unfortunately, have links with health professionals”.
He reminded people that the punishment for issuing a false pass is up to five years in jail and a fine of €75,000 to €150,000.