The number of patients with COVID-19 in Ukraine is increasing every day, although the number of vaccinated is also growing. Why does this happen? Many Ukrainians do not want to be vaccinated and forge certificates en masse. With the introduction of new restrictions for the unvaccinated, this trend is only gaining popularity. However, where the law is punishable, violators will be held responsible for forging, using and distributing forged COVID certificates.

1. What is the responsibility for?

Liability arises for violation of Article 358 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine - forgery of documents, sale or use of forged documents. 

A criminal offense under this article is considered committed from the moment of production of a false document, or partial falsification of the content of a real document (correction, making fictitious records, forgery of signature, etc.), which a person plans to use or provide for use or sell to others. 

A separate offense is the use of a forged document, the falsity of which the user knew. In this case, the offense is considered committed from the moment when the document was presented or submitted by a person, regardless of whether he managed to achieve the goal. 

Therefore, the responsibility for a forged COVID-certificate lies not only with the person who forged it, but also with the person who used such a certificate, knowing of its falsity. 

Checks for counterfeit COVID certificates can be performed  not only police officers, but also sanitary doctors, employees of the State Consumer Service, conductors on railway transport or representatives of shopping and entertainment centers. 

On November 8, the Order of the Ministry of Health №2153 "On approval of the List of professions, industries and organizations whose employees are subject to mandatory preventive vaccinations" came into force. According to the Order, the following employees are subject to mandatory preventive vaccination against COVID-19:

1. Central executive bodies and their territorial bodies;

2. Local state administrations and their structural subdivisions;

3. Institutions of higher, postgraduate, professional higher, professional (vocational), general secondary, including special, preschool, out-of-school education, institutions of specialized education and scientific institutions, regardless of the type and form of ownership.

In case of refusal to be vaccinated, the employer has no right to admit such employees to work.

2. What is the threat of punishment?

Currently, the liability is provided by Article 358 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine - a person who used a forged document can receive a fine of up to 50 tax-free minimum incomes (up to 850 hryvnias), arrest for up to six months or restriction of liberty for up to two years. Those who produce fake COVID-certificates, according to other parts of the same article of the Criminal Code, can be imprisoned for three years for forging documents.

However, Ukraine is preparing to increase its responsibility for forging COVID certificates. Bill №6084 of 23.09.2021 provides for the introduction of a separate article in the Criminal Code of Ukraine for illegal actions with documents relating to preventive vaccinations. The maximum fine for using a fake certificate will increase to 34,000 hryvnias, and for a medical worker entering knowingly false information into medical records to 68,000 hryvnias. For the production of such documents for sale or for sale - a fine of 85,000 to 170,000 UAH or imprisonment for up to 3 years.

In addition to increasing the size of fines, the Ministry of Health is developing an option to conduct a "covenant amnesty." Its essence is that a person who bought a fake COVID-certificate will be allowed to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

3. Are there any sentences already?

As of October 29, the National Police had registered almost 870 criminal proceedings for fraud and forgery of COVID documentation. The proceedings mainly concern forgery of documents. 

The first sentence for forgery of COVID-certificates was passed to a doctor from Pavlograd, Dnipropetrovsk region, who received a fine of 34 thousand UAH and deprivation of the right to work in the specialty for one year.

Judicial practice has shown that in the category of cases of forgery or use of false COVID certificates, courts may impose a measure of restraint in the form of house arrest. Thus, on October 9, 2021, the Darnytsya District Court of Kyiv imposed a house arrest on a person suspected of unauthorized interference in the operation of the automated system "Electronic Medical Information System" to falsify information about vaccination of another person from COVID-19 for further generation in the application ”Electronic vaccination certificate.

A 21-year-old resident of Zaporizhia region, who created a fake application "Action", is also waiting for a court verdict. In the fake application it was possible to edit data on vaccination, age and other information, to create forgeries of digital COVID-certificates.

4. What are the penalties in other countries?

In Greece, medical workers found guilty of issuing false vaccination or recovery certificates from COVID-19 will be fined € 5,000 for each case of fraud. The Greek government has also provided for the liability of owners of medical institutions and boarding houses, who will hire people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the form of a fine of 10 to 50 thousand euros. The fine will increase for each repeated offense in the amount of 20 to 200 thousand euros.

In France, the bearer of a forged certificate faces a fine of 135 to 3,750 euros and imprisonment for up to 6 months. An employer who does not verify the authenticity of the certificate can be fined from 1,000 euros. Persons who forge COVID certificates face imprisonment for a term of 2 to 5 years. 

In Germany, the bearer of a forged certificate is fined up to 25,000 euros. Organized fraud with certificates is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison.  

In Italy, forging a fake COVID-certificate is fined from 309 euros to 1.5 thousand euros, and faces 1-5 years in prison. 1-6 years in prison are provided for organized fraud with these documents.

In Canada, a fake certificate will cost a fine of $ 750 to $ 100,000 plus a year in prison.

In Russia, for presentation of forged COVID-documents faces a fine of up to 80 thousand rubles, mandatory community service (up to 480 hours), correctional labor for up to 2 years, arrest for up to 6 months.

In order to live a full life during the quarantine period, you need to be vaccinated. Currently, law enforcement officers are intensifying the fight against those who want to use fake COVID-certificates and already have the first sentences.

Liability for fake COVID-certificates are provided by law, but you need to answer not only to the state, but also to your conscience: are fake documents worth the danger to which you expose yourself and people who trust you? 

Assistant of Bargen Law Firm Victoria Balatska