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Fake Covid-19 certificates scam exposed

by Staff Reporter
17 Jan 2021 at 07:57hrs | Views
SOME members of staff at a private laboratory, Klosad Clinical Diagnostics Lab, in Harare's Avondale suburb, are issuing out certificates with fake negative Covid-19 results to international travellers without going through the testing process, investigations by The Sunday Mail have revealed.

The corrupt syndicate is producing the fake Covid-19 certificates at a price of US$45 each instead of the recommended US$65 charged by most institutions for a legitimate Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test that is a prerequisite for international travel.

This newspaper received a tip-off and embarked on a week-long investigation to confirm and expose the illicit activity that is hampering efforts to fight Covid-19, which is ravaging the country.

Posing as clients, our crew separately paid for and received the fake certificates at 20 Lanark Road, Avondale where the lab is situated, without being tested.

Investigations revealed that the laboratory is owned by the former Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo.

Further investigations showed that the corrupt syndicate operating at the laboratory comprises front-office workers, lab technicians, management and security guards with one worker identified as Mr Anesu Nyamugama fronting the team.

The scammers target cross-border travellers, mainly traders and job seekers who want to avoid the inconvenience of being tested.

After The Sunday Mail got wind of the corrupt activities at Klosad, our undercover crew visited the lab on Friday January 8, 2021 and engaged Mr Nyamugama and indicated to him that they needed fake certificates.

An unsuspecting Mr Nyamugama asked the crew to return in a couple of days as he wanted to organise with his workmates first. The crew exchanged phone numbers with Mr Nyamugama who communicated regularly via Whats App, using his number — 077 5 438 768.

On Monday January 11, 2021, the certificates were produced at US$45 each. The crew paid US$45 for one certificate (which was handed over immediately) and another $4 500 for the second document via EcoCash to the number 077 5 438 768 using the exchange rate of US$1 to $100.

This second certificate was collected on Tuesday January 12, 2021.

This publication has WhatsApp chats, proof of payments and call records of its interaction and transactions with Mr Nyamugama. The EcoCash number is also registered in the name Anesu Nyamugama.

The certificates were signed off by two different people, one by a C. Guzha and the other by a T. Tenesi while B. Nyakuedzwa approved both certificates, indicating that the syndicate is tightly-knit and involves a wide network.

At no point did Mr Nyamugama offer to provide Covid-19 testing to the crew, which witnessed other prospective travellers undergoing PCR testing at the busy lab.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Nyathi said the police would look into the matter.

"We have already arrested individuals and syndicates selling fake certificates at Robert Mugabe International Airport, Beitbridge Border Post and Chirundu Border Post.

"We are aware that there are some who are operating underground and we urge members of the public who have information about such operations to come forward so that we can begin investigations."

Klosad is among the laboratories that have been approved by the Government to conduct Covid-19 testing.

Syndicates selling fake Covid-19 certificates to international travellers have been a menace since the end of the festive period as Zimbabweans based abroad are trooping back to their bases.

Covid-19 Chief Co-ordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva said authorities are escalating surveillance systems to fish out those selling fake certificates.

"From our side, we have always said that if you are found breaking the rules you will be arrested or closed down," she said.

"In this case, we encourage you to make a police report and submit all the evidence that you have there so that the culprits are arrested.

"The Zimbabwe Republic Police is escalating its tracking systems to fish out perpetrators and it is also the duty of the public and the media as you have done to report offenders."

Dr Moyo, who owns the lab, said he and other senior management were unaware that their employees were issuing fake certificates.

When The Sunday Mail presented to him evidence of the fake certificates, Dr Moyo checked with his employees and corroborated that the certificates were not in Klosad's database and promised to take action against the culprits.

"We have checked the records and indeed your names do not appear and we are going to make a police report right away. These are just a few bad apples who will be dealt with.

"We are now dealing with those responsible and we want to assure the public that this will never happen again as we offer a professional service," he said.

A number of people have been arrested at the country's borders for attempting to leave the country using fake Covid-19 certificates.

Source - Sunday Mail