Man pleads guilty to possessing fake ‘fit-to-fly’ Covid-19 document at airport

Uxbridge Magistrates' Court, west London (Steve Parsons/PA)
Uxbridge Magistrates' Court, west London (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)
13:13pm, Tue 04 May 2021
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A man has pleaded guilty to possession of a fake fit-to-fly Covid-19 certificate, which he used to try and board a plane to Egypt.

Emmanuel Nere Mehari, 27, was stopped at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 2 on April 12 and the forged document was discovered.

Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court heard that Mehari was attempting to visit an unwell relative but did not know that a certificate or negative coronavirus test was required.

Airport authorities checked his document and despite suspicions allowed him to board the plane, before receiving a call back from the clinic that had provided the certificate telling them it was a fake.

Jyothi Somavarapu, prosecuting, said Mehari had provided a type of certificate the desk assistant had “not seen before” and was unable to answer “basic questions” about the document, such as when and where he had acquired it.

“Emmanuel was unable to answer her questions and started to become argumentative,” she said.

“(He) was unable to prove where the test certificate had come from and…didn’t have an email.”

The tower at London’s Heathrow Airport (Hannah McKay/PA) (PA Archive)

Ms Somavarapu said that a call to the clinic had been made, the certificate had been validated, and Mehari had been allowed to board the plane.

But the airline had been called back by the clinic which stated Mehari had not attended himself and that the document had been altered.

“This certificate was a fake,” said Ms Somavarapu, adding that the effects of the offences “could have been disastrous”.

Mehari, of 41 Dimsdale Drive, north west London, was charged with possessing or controlling an article for use in fraud.

He appeared in court in person on Tuesday, dressed in a thick coat and a black face mask and spoke only to enter his guilty plea.

Sarj Patel, defending, said that Mehari had been on his way to Egypt to visit and care for his cousin, who was ill, but was “not aware at all” that a certificate had been required to travel.

“He began to panic,” he said.

“In that moment of desperation…he just made a foolish decision to go along with someone who was attempting to help him.

“He didn’t even look at (the certificate)…it was a decision made minutes before he presented it to the desk assistant.

“He was involved through exploitation by another…taking advantage.”

Mr Patel said that Mehari’s actions had been a failure in “safeguarding others” during the pandemic but said that he was remorseful for his actions.

Mehari is due to be sentenced this afternoon.

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