Acquisition and use of fake Covid-19 certificates may become a criminal offence in Latvia

Latvia’s parliament has received amendments to the Criminal Law. Amendments suggest making it a criminal offence to acquire and use a fake Covid-19 vaccination or recovery certificate.
Amendments were prepared by members of coalition parties Andrejs Judins (New Unity), Juris Jurašs (New Conservative Party), Juris Pūce (Attistībai/Par), Raivis Dzintars (National Alliance) and Anda Čakša (New Unity) in cooperation with State Police and Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.
The annotation of the legislative draft explains that the rapid spread of Covid-19 has led to the number of deaths caused by the infection nearing 3 000 in Latvia. Vaccination, testing and recovery certificates are the only available and reliable methods help limit the spread of the infection and are the main conditions for an epidemiologically safe environment, which is vital for the national economy and uninterrupted functioning of institutions.
There are multiple problems that exist with efforts to halt the pandemic, Saeima deputies say. There have been reports of more than ten criminal procedures commenced by law enforcement institutions in regards to acquisition and use of fake Covid-19 vaccination or recovery certificates. More than a hundred people are involved, medical workers included.
Workers of healthcare institutions have also said they often receive bribe offers from their patients if it means acquiring a fake vaccination certificate without actually going through vaccination.
The annotation mentions that there have been multiple different dangerous infections over the years. This is why it is necessary to develop regulations that would govern more than just Covid-19 prevention. This regulation would be useful if other infectious diseases appear in the future, so that it is possible to halt their spread.
The Criminal Law details criminal liability for bribery of workers of state or municipal institutions. The law provides a penalty of community service or fine for such a crime.
However, considering the potential damage a fake vaccination certificate could cause, deputies admit the penalty stated in the law is insufficient. It is necessary to keep in mind the benefits the person is able to access using a fake certificate, authors note.
Considering the aforementioned, amendments to the Criminal Law provide for increasing liability for bribery of employees of state or municipal institutions to a prison sentence for up to one year.
The legislative draft also provides for expanding the Criminal Law with an additional section regarding criminal liability for illegal acquisition and use of a Covid-19 vaccination or recovery certificate if a person is not vaccinated. At the same time, it is proposed to relieve persons who voluntarily report acquisition of a fake certificate of criminal liability.
Currently Section 275 of the Criminal Law covers forgery, sale and use of fake documents.
After discussing the situation with fake certificates with representatives of law enforcement institutions, the conclusion was reached that to prosecute people, it is necessary to prove the fact of them using the certificate or intention.
The annotation mentions that there have been cases in Latvia when a person presented documents that were issued to other people in an attempt to breach epidemiological safety requirements in the country.
Such behaviour puts at risk public health. Considering the level of danger, such behaviour should be considered criminal.
Authors of the legislative draft suggest that when making it a criminal offence to use another person’s vaccination certificate, such cases should be separated from cases when another person’s certificate was used by a vaccinated person who has their own certificate.
The Saeima may decide on submitting amendments to the Legal Affairs Committee on 21 October.