A Bangladeshi hospital owner on the run for nine days was arrested by the country’s federal police on Wednesday, July 15, for allegedly selling patients fake COVID-19 negative certificates.
Mohammad Shahed, 42, was one of more than a dozen people in Bangladesh detained in a scam to sell fake coronavirus test results without actually testing patients. According to officials, he was arrested while trying to flee from Bangladesh to India disguised in a burqa.
Shahed is the owner of the Regent Hospital, whose branches in the Uttara and Mirpur localities of capital city Dhaka were sealed on July 6 for issuing fake certificates. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an anti-crime unit of Bangladesh’s federal police, detained eight hospital employees on several charges, including issuing the fake test results.
"His hospitals carried out 10,500 coronavirus tests, out of which 4,200 were genuine and the rest, 6,300 reports, were given without conducting tests,” RAB spokesman Colonel Ashique Billah told the news agency AFP.
According to a report by the CNN on July 16, Bangladesh has conducted an average of 13,000 to 17,000 daily tests since March.
Shahed is also accused of pocketing $350,000 after charging people for fake tests even though he had an agreement with the government to offer patients free medical care at his hospitals in the capital city Dhaka.
The RAB has busted at least two other fake certificate rings. On June 15, they arrested four members of a syndicate in the Mugda locality of Dhaka selling fake certificates. On June 24, Ariful Chowdhury, the CEO of a Dhaka-based private healthcare facility called JKG, and his wife, were also arrested, while five hospital employees were detained.
The fake COVID-19 certificate scam has cast doubt on not just official figures of coronavirus patients in Bangladesh, but also people’s confidence in the testing process.
With a population of 168 million, Bangladesh has reported more than 196,000 cases, and over 2,496 deaths. But this number is estimated to be much higher due to the country’s limited testing capacity, delays in announcing results, and overcrowding at testing centres.
Last week, Italy suspended all flights from Bangladesh after several passengers coming from Dhaka tested positive, despite carrying negative COVID-19 certificates. An estimated 12 million migrant workers send back $15 billion in remittances.
Bangladesh isn’t the only country dealing with such scams.
On July 6, a private hospital in the city of Meerut in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was pulled up for allegedly offering people fake COVID-19 negative certificates.
After a video of a hospital employee promising a patient they would give them a fake negative test result for INR 2,500 ($33) went viral, the hospital’s license was suspended.
Though Meerut’s Chief Medical officer launched an investigation, no arrest has been made so far.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.