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Irish criminal gang involved in selling fake Covid-negative papers

There have been several arrests around Europe.

Image: Shutterstock/Oleg Grach

Updated Feb 1st 2021, 2:36 PM

EUROPOL HAS WARNED travellers to watch for organised crime gangs selling fake Covid-negative certificates at airports, sometimes for as much as €300 each.

The warning from Europol comes after police busted several suspects selling forged certificates declaring people Covid-19 negative at airports in Britain and France, online and through mobile messaging chat groups in Spain and the Netherlands.

Many EU countries and others now require proof that passengers are not infected by the disease, which has killed more than 2.2 million people around the world.

Europol said that one of the gangs carrying out these crimes is the Rathkeale Rovers organised crime group. Europol said it received additional intelligence on the “alleged use of a mobile application by the Rathkeale Rovers Mobile Organised Crime Group which allows members of the organised crime group to manually falsify test results”.

“As long as travel restrictions remain in place due to the pandemic, it is very likely that criminals will seize the opportunity of producing and selling fake Covid-19 test certificates,” Europol said.

“Given the widespread technological means available in the form of high-quality printers and different software, fraudsters are able to produce high-quality counterfeit, forged or fake documents,” the Hague-based police agency said.

French police late last year broke up a forgery ring at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris selling fake certificates for between €150 and €300, Europol said.

“Intelligence suggests that in the UK, fraudsters were caught selling bogus Covid-19 test documents for 100 pounds, faking the name of a genuine laboratory on the false certificates,” it added.

In one recent case, a man was arrested 10 days ago at Luton Airport in Britain on suspicion of selling fake Covid papers.

In Spain, police arrested a man selling forged papers for €40 online, while in the Netherlands scammers were doing the same via mobile messaging applications.

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Europol has a long relationship with the Rathkeale Rovers, who primarily carry out their crimes outside of Ireland. 

In 201o, Europol launched Operation Oakleaf to target the activities of the Rathkeale Rovers, a mobile organised crime group of Irish origin specialised in the theft and illegal trade of rhino horn.

Europol said this highly organised group is establishing companies all over Europe in an attempt to legitimise and cover their illegal activities. 

Over 30 people were arrested during the operation.

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