Fake COVID certificates: Malappuram lab collected over Rs 40 lakh, accused test positive

Fake COVID certificates: Malappuram lab collected over Rs 40 lakh, accused test positive
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Malappuram: The Arma Lab in Valancherry in Kerala's Malappuram districts has collected over 40 lakh by issuing fake COVID-19 negative certificates, the police said.

The private lab in Kerala has allegedly cheated a large number of people, mostly those travelling to the Middle East and other countries, by issuing 'fake' COVID-19 negative certificates without testing their samples.

Owner of the lab and manager was arrested on Tuesday. They were shifted to COVID care centre as both of them tested positive for coronavirus.

The fraud came to light as several expatriates were found positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Saudi Arabia despite them holding the negative test certificates issued by the Arma Lab in Valancherry in this district, a franchise of a Kozhikode-based ICMR-approved reputed laboratory.

The Arma Lab allegedly cheated around 2,000 people in the past few months by using 'fake' letter heads of its parent lab for issuing the negative certificates, the police said.

As per the agreement, the franchise has been designated as an agency to collect samples and send them for testing to the Kozhikode-based laboratory, authorised to issue the COVID-19 certificates.

Police said the officials of Arma lab authorities, who had allegedly collected 2,500 samples in the past few months, did not send all of them to the Kozhikode laboratory for testing.

"Instead they had sent only about 500 samples for testing and issued fake COVID-19 negative certificates in about 2,000 cases. The Arma Lab authorities made 'fake' letter heads of the Kozhikode laboratory and issued the COVID-19 certificates," the police said.

It allegedly charged up to Rs 2,750 for each test and had collected between Rs 40 lakhs to Rs 45 lakhs, they said.

After several expatriates holding the negative certificates tested positive on arrival, the Saudi authorities have barred people with certificates from the Kozhikode lab, police said.

Negative COVID-19 test certificate issued by a verified laboratory 48 hours before arrival is mandatory for travel to Saudi Arabia and several other countries.

Acting on a complaint by a person allegedly cheated by the lab, the police launched an investigation and arrested the manager of Arma Lab on Tuesday.

He was produced before a court which remanded him to judicial custody, sub-inspector of Valanchery police station Muralikrishnan said.

The owner of Arma Lab, now under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, is reported to have approached the Kerala High Court for anticipatory bail in the case.

Police said stringent action will be taken against the Valanchery-based lab for committing the fraud and cheating the public to the tune of lakhs of rupees.

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