In two separate cases, the Hyderabad police on January 21 busted rackets involving fake negative RT-PCR reports and forged vaccination certificates, and arrested six people. Officers belonging to the police’s quick reaction team (Commissioner’s Taskforce) seized over 100 fake COVID-negative RT-PCR reports, 50 counterfeit vaccination certificates and 20 sample collection kits.
According to Deputy Commissioner of Police (Taskforce) Gummi Chakravarthy, several persons including two diagnostic centre owners, a primary health care centre staffer, and many travel agents were involved in the duplication and fraudulent ‘manufacturing’ of these certificates.
In the first case P Laxman (30), the owner of Home Care Diagnostics Services Centre in Hyderabad’s Malakpet area, and Prabhath Kumar Sanghi (45) from Nampally have been arrested. Police said Laxman, who previously worked as a lab technician at various diagnostic centres in the city, had around a year ago set up his own diagnostic centre and tied up with a few pathology laboratories. He would send dummy samples for testing to get a negative RT-PCR report and in some instances, negative reports were provided without even a swab test being conducted. This would cost anywhere between Rs 2,000 and Rs.3000.
In the second case, Mohammed Tariq Habeeb, the owner of Image Diagnostic Centre in Asif Nagar, had joined hands with travel agents Gulam Mustafa and Abdul Basheer, Irfan Ur Rab Ansari, and an urban primary health care (UPHC) staffer called Kumari, to manufacture and sell fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates. DCP Gummi Chakravarthy said, “Tariq Habeeb had colluded with the UPHC, Humayun Nagar staffer and without administering the vaccine, had provided fake vaccination certificates to several customers.” The two accused who were in the travel business had a steady stream of travellers looking for certificates. A fake vaccination certificate cost between Rs.800 and Rs.1,000. The police said that the accused were also providing fake negative RT-PCR reports.
The police said they were able to bust this case thanks to a tip off from the superintendent of the UPHC, who was alerted to a possible fraud by a travel agency that had received a suspicious-looking vaccination certificate from a customer. The Taskforce police added that several unscrupulous travel agents were encouraging people, especially those travelling abroad, and helping them secure fake vaccination certificates and RT-PCR reports.