Coronavirus: teacher, 2 social workers among 4 Hong Kong civil servants arrested for allegedly buying fake jab certificates
- Four women were picked up in series of raids across the city
- Suspects were patients of six out of seven doctors accused of issuing more than 20,000 exemption certificates without proper medical diagnosis
A teacher and two social workers are among four Hong Kong civil servants who have been arrested on suspicion of buying fake Covid-19 vaccine exemption certificates, police have revealed.
The four women – picked up in a series of raids across the city on Friday – were among the patients of six of seven doctors suspected of issuing more than 20,000 exemption certificates without proper medical diagnosis. Six of the practitioners have been arrested while the seventh remains wanted by authorities.
One of the civil servants was an English teacher at a government primary school, while the two social workers and another woman were staff members at the Social Welfare Department, according to Superintendent Alan Chung Nga-lun of the Kowloon West regional crime unit.
“The investigation revealed that each of the suspects had spent between HK$500 (US$64) and HK$2,500 to obtain the vaccination exemption certificates multiple times from the doctors who were arrested or wanted by police,” Chung said. The suspects were accused of buying two or three of the documents this year.
He said their “selfish acts” had not only increased their chances of contracting the coronavirus but had also put their colleagues and the public at a higher risk of infection.
Chung said the arrests were made after officers carried out a thorough investigation, studied all the evidence and obtained assessments from medical experts who had examined the suspects’ medical backgrounds.
Officers would also check whether other patients of the seven doctors had obtained the certificates illegally, he added.
The four suspects accused of obtaining the certificates under false pretences were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud – an offence punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
The latest arrests, bringing the total number of patients involved to 26, came days after the Civil Service Bureau said 370 government employees were suspected of using fake Covid-19 jab exemption certificates, warning that those involved in misconduct would be held accountable. One of the 22 patients arrested last month was also a government employee.
Out of the 850 government employees who held exemption certificates, the bureau found 370 had used documents issued by the seven doctors.
“The government attaches great importance to the conduct and integrity of employees. Should any individual officers be suspected of breaching the law or misconducting themselves, the government will deal with them seriously under the established mechanism,” a bureau spokeswoman told the Post earlier this month.
Between September 5 and 27, six doctors were rounded up on suspicion of issuing exemption documents without following the relevant government guidelines. They allegedly charged each patient as much as HK$5,000 for a certificate. During the operation, police also arrested seven staff from the six clinics run by the medical practitioners.
Another doctor – Dr Chan Hoi-yuk – was placed on a police wanted list in March after being accused of selling a vaccine exemption certificate for HK$800 to an undercover officer in his Kwun Tong clinic.
Police said the doctor had left Hong Kong in June last year but still ran the clinic and offered consultations online. In March, police arrested two women, aged 28 and 69, in connection with the case. The 28-year-old worked as a nurse at Chan’s clinic.
On September 27, the government said more than 20,000 certificates issued by the seven doctors would not be accepted from October 12. People who needed the documents were advised to consult other doctors to determine whether they were eligible for jabs or should continue to receive an exemption.
On the following day, health authorities announced that the seven doctors were barred from administering Covid-19 vaccines after they were accused of issuing jab exemptions without performing the proper checks, with the cases being referred to the medical regulator.
Under the city’s vaccine pass scheme, people entering public buildings and restaurants, as well as government employees going to work, need to be triple-jabbed if they have never been infected, or provide a medical exemption certificate.