Police in Vietnam have arrested 12 individuals linked to a newly uncovered forgery ring that sold fake coronavirus-negative certificates for workers and inter-provincial drivers to evade monitoring measures of COVID-19 prevention officials.
The People’s Procuracy in northern Bac Ninh Province has pressed charges of forging official documents against Tran Tan Duong, 34, director of Thien Nhan Advertising Printing Design Co. Ltd., as well as 11 suspects allegedly involved in Duong’s racket, the same agency stated on Thursday.
On August 11, Duong was caught red-handed selling six coronavirus test results with signatures and seals from Hoan My International Hospital to Vu Van Chien, 32, during a police raid targeting Thien Nhan headquarters in Bac Ninh City, the provincial capital.
The company director later admitted the seals were printed digital images, while Duong forged the technicians’ and hospital leaders’ signatures.
As many workers in Bac Ninh need coronavirus-free test results to start working at new firms, while inter-provincial drivers also need them to pass through COVID-19 checkpoints, Duong started taking orders via instant messaging app Zalo and forging result certificates at the price of VND150,000 (US$7) for quick test versions, or VND250,000 ($11) for the real-time RT-PCR version.
|Tran Tan Duong, the kingpin of a COVID-19 test certificate forgery ring, is shown at the police station in Bac Ninh Province, Vietnam. Photo: Dang Hoa / Tuoi Tre|
Several individuals were found sourcing test results from Duong.
Among them, Than Van T., Hoang Van H., Nguyen Van D., and Tran Viet B., who hail from northern provinces, purchased a multitude of test certificates to distribute to the inter-provincial drivers of a transport company in Lang Son Province, 130km north of Bac Ninh.
These certificates were on track to help their vehicles earn ‘green lane’ status, which allows vehicles to pass through COVID-19 checkpoints when they are carrying essential commodities, transporting workers, or performing other duties.
Several workers and collaborators of job placement agencies Anbin Vina and HT Vina were also caught buying over 100 certificates from Duong.
They purchased testing service bills to help workers get into industrial zones in Bac Ninh Province, officers revealed.
Provincial police are expanding their investigation and collecting evidence to clear the case.
One of the gravest outbreak sites in Vietnam back in May and June, Bac Ninh has recently seen some success in quelling the disease, going three weeks without logging any new transmission in the community until an infection cluster was found in a delivery service office on August 14.