The perils of foreign travel in the COVID era can be easy to fall into. A Mr Emmanuel Mehari pleaded guilty yesterday at Uxbridge Magistrates Court to a charge of possessing or controlling an article for use in fraud at a hearing. He had been arrested at Heathrow airport and found to be in possession of a forged ‘fit to fly’ certificate. The offence under section 6 of the Fraud Act 2006, carries a maximum sentence on conviction in the Crown Court of 5 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both.
The court expressed concern as to the potential harm that could have been caused by Mr Mehari’s actions. There is no doubt that given the current climate and fears about the spread of Covid by international travellers, he was fortunate to avoid a custodial sentence
The sentence imposed was a community order with 180 hours of unpaid work. Mr Mehari had told the court that he was intending to visit a relative who was ill and that he had not known that a certificate was required. He had managed to get one by paying £50.00. The ease with which he was able to do this has become a major issue for airlines and border control officers tasked with preventing travel by those who are unable to prove their fitness to do so. It is understood that efforts are being made to close down numerous web sites purporting to offer these false certificates.
The prosecution said Mr Mehari had provided a certificate but he had been unable to give airport officials information relating to the same. Enquiries at the clinic from which the certificate appeared to have been issued, initially allowed Mr Mehari to board the plane. However, later information received from the clinic indicated that the date on the certificate had been altered. Mr Mehari and his luggage were then removed from the plane.
So as summer approaches, do not be tempted by foreign travel, otherwise you may be taking an entirely different kind of ‘holiday’ to the one you had planned!
For more information and advice on how we can help you through difficult circumstance, click here to contact our crime consultant, Stephen Bennett.