A 27-year-old man who used a fake 'fit-to-fly' Covid certificate in order to board a plane from Heathrow to Egypt has been sentenced to a 12-month community service order and given 180 hours of unpaid work. A fine of £180 (around $250) has been imposed as well. He also faces a charge of possessing or controlling an article for use in fraud.

Emmanuel Nere Mehari, the accused, was nabbed by officials at the west London airport's Terminal 2 on April 12. Mehari is a resident of Dimsdale Drive, northwest London.

The forged document was retrieved at the scene. Upon further questioning, it came to the knowledge of the Uxbridge Magistrates' Court that Mehari was trying to visit an unwell relative, but was oblivious of the negative coronavirus test mandate.

Despite airport authorities having felt something to be fishy about the documents, they allowed Mehari to board the flight. However, they were alerted of the fraud by the clinic that had provided the certificate.

While traveling from the UK to any other part of the world is currently illegal, people can onboard flights if the reason for travel falls under the ambit of unforeseen emergencies or in the case of deaths.

However, only passengers who are able to produce a negative Covid report are permitted to fly. The rule has amassed a lot of concerns over how much these cost to obtain privately. So much so, some firms are charging up to £200 ($278) in lieu of counterfeit certificates that facilitate traveling by flights overseas.  

As reported by Daily Mail, Jyothi Somavarapu who prosecuted Mehari reasoned that the 27-year-old had produced a type of certificate the desk assistant had "not seen before" and failed to answer basic questions about the document, such as when and where he had acquired it.

“Emmanuel was unable to answer her (the desk official) 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,” she added.

Somavarapu further maintained that a call to the clinic was made, post which the certificate validated, and Mehari was allowed to board the plane. But, the airlines received a call-back shortly after, citing how the document was altered.

“This certificate was a fake,” said Somavarapu, adding that the glitch could’ve borne serious consequences.

Mehari was dressed in a thick coat and a black face mask and spoke only to enter his guilty plea, upon being produced before the court on Tuesday. Sarj Patel who was defending Mehari in the court argued that the man was on his way to Egypt to visit and care for his cousin, who was ill, but was "not aware at all" that a certificate was required to travel.

“He began to panic,” said Patel, adding, “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.”

While Patel agreed that Mehari’s actions could’ve backfired an entire country’s health protocol to curb further transmission of the virus, he said his client was truly remorseful for his actions.

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