FOUR people have been arrested by Butha-Buthe police after they attempted to cross into South Africa using fraudulent Covid-19 certificates.
Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed the arrests, saying the four were apprehended at the weekend. They have since appeared in the Butha-Buthe Magistrates’ Court on fraud charges. He said the four had been released on bail. He however, would not say what the bail conditions were or when next the suspects would appear in court.
National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) acting CEO Thabo Ntoi also confirmed the arrests, saying some of the suspects had old certificates whose dates had been altered to make them appear as though they were current. Other suspects had superimposed their own names on test results of other people.
Mr Ntoi said they were gravely worried by the fraudulent activities. In addition to endangering theirs and other people’s lives, the fraudsters were also tarnishing the country’s image, he said.
“This goes to show that some people can be careless and engage in criminal offences just to get what they want while ignoring the wider implications of their dangerous actions,” Mr Ntoi said.
“Fortunately, the South African immigration authorities were able to spot the scam and prevented the culprits from entering their country. We subsequently got a report from the police last week indicating that the culprits had been arrested.
“We are dealing with a very dangerous virus. These people are undermining all our efforts to fight the spread of Covid-19 and they need to be stopped,” he added.
The Lesotho Times has also established that some people routinely pay bribes to pass through the various border gates without presenting valid Covid-19 certificates.
In October last year, this publication exposed the Covid-19 certificates for cash scandal wherein some unscrupulous health professionals were selling vaccination certificates to people who had not been jabbed against the deadly virus.
The Lesotho Times’ investigations showed that the certificates, also known as Covid-19 passports, were selling for anything from M150 to M400.
Two months before that, this publication had also exposed the jabs-for-cash scandal wherein rogue health practitioners from Motebang Hospital, Leribe, had allegedly corruptly administered vaccines to ineligible people, mainly foreign nationals, in exchange for monetary payments.
No one has been arrested to date in connection with both scams, with the police saying investigations are ongoing.