Fines range from $1,000 – $6,000 for those facing criminal and health act charges
Following an investigation launched by Quebec’s UPAC anti-corruption unit last January into alleged fraud involving the production and sale of fake Covid vaccine passports, the provincial force has announced it has issued an initial 10 tickets with fines that could range from $1,000 to $6,000 each.
More tickets coming
Although the province’s proof-of-vaccination system came to an end last March, Health Minister Christian Dubé has said it could be reinstated if and when necessary. According to UPAC, the tickets are only the first they plan to send out in the coming weeks in response to the fraud scheme.
The provincial agency says many more investigation files are currently open, with potential consequences involving criminal as well as non-criminal infractions.
UPAC is working in conjunction with the provincial government’s Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP). The agency is encouraging members of the public to report anything involving the suspected use of fake vaccine passports through an anonymous form available on the agency’s website.
It should be recalled that last January as strict sanitary measures against Covid continued to be enforced, Quebecers were obliged to show proof of vaccination in order to access certain businesses, including gyms, restaurants and bars.
Fake passports widespread
The offences being prosecuted relate to the provincial public health act. Preliminary investigations have tended to show that the offences weren’t restricted to any particular region and occurred throughout Quebec, the UPAC commissioner said.
Last January, Covid vaccine passports found to be faked were revoked and criminal charges against people who bought them or produced them followed.
In February, the head of the DPCP decreed that the manufacture or use of a false vaccine passport should “not be subject to non-judicial treatment or alternative measures,” leading to the most recent announcement.
‘Dangerous,’ minister said
“The people who, unfortunately, did this … it’s very dangerous what they’ve done; to let unvaccinated people go to places that were reserved for vaccinated people,” Health Minister Dubé told journalists earlier this year during one of the government’s many press briefings during the crisis.
UPAC said at the time that it wanted to keep information gathered about the alleged fake Covid vaccine passport schemes confidential, “so as not to prejudice the gathering of evidence and the reputation of those who may be involved,” the agency said.
Attempts at restaurants
Shortly after the vaccine passport fraud schemes were discovered, the government took measures to ensure that establishments such as restaurants would be able to report suspected fraudulent vaccine passports and prevent their users from entering.
UPAC is working in conjunction with the provincial government’s Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP)
Eventually, charges were laid not only against individuals suspected of making the fake vaccine passports, but also those who purchased them. Those who now stand to be found guilty are being prosecuted under the Criminal Code and the province’s Public Health Act.
According to news reports earlier this year, UPAC had started to be tipped off about false vaccine passports as early as last fall.
Probe began last January
“Given the context of public health guidelines and the confidence people place in the places they can access with the passports, it is important that these fraudulent passports be thoroughly investigated,” UPAC spokesman Mathieu Galarneau told journalists last January.
He said UPAC wasn’t dismissing the possibility that organized networks of individuals were involved in the scams. Anyone who feels they have information regarding the production or distribution of fake vaccine passports is asked to contact UPAC at 1-844-541-UPAC.