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Italian police bust sales of counterfeit Covid health passes on Telegram

Italian police said they’ve busted 32 operations involving people selling fake Covid health passes via the Telegram messaging app for up to €500 a pop, just days after the “green pass” came into force across the country.

Investigators of the Postal and Communications Police Service, in collaboration with public prosecutors at courts in the Italian cities of Rome, Milan and Bari, foiled 32 operations regarding the purchase of fake Covid health passes via Telegram. Four people have been placed under investigation for fraud and forgery as a result of the probe.

“Thousands of users were registered on well-known communication platforms where fake green passes were offered for sale, with an absolute guarantee of anonymity, to be paid in cryptocurrency or vouchers for online shopping platforms, at a price between €150 and €500 ($175 to $590),” Italy’s postal police said in a statement on Monday.

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Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a Facebook post on Monday that some 20 million Italians downloaded fake green passes in three days.

Italy’s health pass system requires citizens to indicate whether or not they have been vaccinated against Covid, that they have recently recovered from the virus, or that they have tested negative.

To obtain a fake health pass, people were allegedly told to provide their names, tax code and date of birth, which would be sent to a doctor in cahoots with the scheme. After procuring the personal data, the doctor would then forge fake coronavirus vaccination certificates, Italian authorities said.

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The Green Pass has been made mandatory in order to access gyms, swimming pools, certain cultural institutions and indoor seating at restaurants and bars from August 6 onwards. The pass will also be rolled out to include travel on long distance transport from September 1.

Despite uproar across Italy over the introduction of the scheme, the government announced last week that teachers and university students will be required to confirm their inoculation or viral status from the beginning of next month.

Italy, one of the countries worst hit during the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020, has administered over 71.8 million coronavirus vaccines, with almost 64% of the population over 12 having been fully inoculated, according to government figures.

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