Mumbai: 2 held in vaccine certificate scam

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The Mumbai Crime branch on Wednesday laid a trap and arrested two persons for allegedly manipulating the Co-Win website and procuring vaccination certificates for people who are not vaccinated. The police said the mastermind of the scam is based in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh.

A healthcare worker would insert details of the applicant and obtain the certificate from the Co-Win website, the police said. The scam came to light early this week, when a police informer tipped off the Kurla office of crime branch unit V. Accordingly, a team led by assistant police inspector Amol Mali contacted health workers at the BMC L-ward office. “We found a person who had not taken a single dose of vaccine and could act as a dummy customer. The BMC doctor cross-verified that the person had not been vaccinated,” said an officer. On Tuesday, the dummy customer approached one of the accused, identified as Zuber Sheikh, who stays in Wadala and works at a photocopy shop. Sheikh asked the customer to share his Aadhaar card and mobile number, and demanded Rs 2,000 for the vaccination certificate.

“In some time, Sheikh called him up and said his certificate is ready, and to collect it on Wednesday,” said an officer. “A one-time password was generated on his mobile, but the frauds did not ask him for it. Immediately after that he received a message from Co-Win congratulating him for being fully vaccinated.”
Crime branch officials laid a trap around the shop, and as soon as Sheikh handed over the certificate, the police caught him. The certificate showed that the dummy customer got his first dose on August 3 and the second on December 21 at a health centre in Pratapgarh. The barcode on the certificate was working, said an officer.

Sheikh was brought to the crime branch office, and he confessed to the crime and revealed the role of his accomplice Alfaiz Khan (19). Khan was arrested from his residence in Wadala.

During questioning, the police learnt that Sheikh and Khan hail from Pratapgarh. “They were staying at their native place. There were rumours about vaccines, and they were afraid of taking one. They wanted to work in Mumbai and were not allowed to enter until they were fully vaccinated, so they approached one person there who helped them get an original certificate,” said an officer.

The duo arrived in Mumbai recently, after which they realised that people require certificates for several things, so they became a part of the scam. “Many in UP procured certificates through this illegal method. They got certificates for Rs 700 each,” said an officer. The two arrested persons started sending details of applicants to UP, from where certificates would be sent back to them.

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