Authorities arrested a Bangladesh hospital owner on Wednesday for selling thousands of fake coronavirus test results to his patients.
Police caught the man fleeing to neighboring India “wearing a burqa” following a nine-day manhunt for him, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
Wednesday’s arrest concluded an extensive manhunt for Mohammad Shahed, 42, after police accused him of issuing fake certificates to patients at his hospitals, declaring them virus-free even though they had not been tested. In addition to Shahed, Bangladesh authorities detained roughly a dozen other people in recent days for their connection to the alleged scam.
“He was arrested from the bank of a border river as he was trying to flee to India. He was wearing a burqa,” Colonel Ashique Billah, a spokesman for Bangladesh’s anti-crime unit Rapid Action Battalion, told AFP.
“His hospitals carried out 10,500 coronavirus tests, out of which 4,200 were genuine and the rest, 6,300 test reports, were given without conducting tests,” Billah said.
Authorities also accuse Shahed of charging his patients for the false certificates and coronavirus treatments despite a previous agreement between him and the government that his two hospitals in the capital, Dhaka, would provide coronavirus-related care free of charge, AFP reports.
A “well-known” doctor and her husband were among others accused of the same document scam. Police arrested them for “issuing thousands of fake coronavirus certificates at their Dhaka laboratory.”
Health experts warned on Thursday that the false certificate scam may cause the “already dire” coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh to worsen. At press time, Bangladesh has reported 196,323 infections and 2,496 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus so far. Medical experts believe the real numbers “are likely much higher because so little testing has been carried out,” AFP noted.
Last week, Italy suspended all flights to Rome from Bangladesh after health authorities discovered a new coronavirus infection cluster within Rome’s Bangladesh immigrant community. A “significant number” of passengers on a flight to Rome from Bangladesh on July 6 tested positive for coronavirus, Reuters reported.
Immediately prior to the air ban, “[s]everal passengers arriving [in Rome] from Dhaka had tested positive for [Chinese coronavirus],” AFP reported. “Some of the Bangladeshis who were tested positive in Italy were allegedly carrying negative COVID [Chinese coronavirus] certificates from Bangladesh,” Shakirul Islam of migrant rights group OKUP claimed.