Latvian Saeima conceptually approves making acquisition of fake Covid-19 certificate a criminal offence

On Thursday, 28 October, members of the Saeima conceptually passed amendments to the Criminal Law that provide for making acquisition of fake Covid-19 vaccination, testing or recovery certificates a criminal offence.
Amendments were prepared by members of parties of the ruling coalition Andrejs Judins, Juris Jurašs, Juris Pūce, Raivis Dzintars and Anda Čakša in cooperation with State Police and Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.
The annotation to the legislative draft details that the rapid spread of Covid-19 has led to the situation when the number of deaths caused by this virus in Latvia is close to 3 000. Vaccination, testing or recovery certificates are the only available tools to limit the epidemic and the main conditions to provide epidemiologically safe services that are vital for both the national economy and continued function of institutions.
The situation with the pandemic has outlined multiple problems, Saeima deputies say. There have been reports of law enforcement institutions having commenced more than a dozen criminal procedures with several hundred people involved in production, acquisition and use of fake certificates, as well as bribery of medical workers.
Medical workers also admit receiving bribery offers from patients to receive vaccination certificates without doing the actual vaccination.
It is suggested to to provide criminal liability for bribery of workers of state or municipal institutions who are not state officials or a trustee of a state institution in exchange for illegal activities in line with that person’s duties. In accordance with the proposed legislative measure, the applicable punishment for the aforementioned crime would be community service or a fine. However, considering the consequences that may surface as a result of use of fake certificates, deputies admit the penalty does not meet the severity of the crime.
Considering the benefits the interested party offers in exchange for a certificate, the penalty outlined in the law does not perform a preventive function either.
With that said, amendments to the Criminal Law provide for increasing criminal liability for offering bribes to workers of state of municipal institutions who are not state officials. It is proposed to increase the penalty to deprivation of freedom for up to one year.
The legislative draft suggests expanding the Criminal Law with a new section. Amendments also provide for further improving legislative regulations to include criminal liability for the acquisition of a fake vaccination, testing or recovery certificate if the recipient is not vaccinated. It is also planned to relieve from criminal liability persons who voluntarily come clean with acquisition of a fake certificate.
Because it is difficult to uncover the use of a fake certificate and since it is clear acquisition of this certificate is intentional, for law enforcement institutions to use their capacity efficiently and to prevent illegalities that may cause severe consequences (spreading the disease to other people), it is necessary to introduce criminal liability for the acquisition of a fake certificate, parliamentarians explain.
The annotation also mentions that practice shows there are cases when a person presents a certificate issued to another person. Such behaviour puts at risk public safety.