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Italian police break up online network selling fake Covid ‘green passes’

Italian police on Monday said fake versions of Covid 'green passes' were circulating in Italy, just days after the document was made a requirement at many cultural and leisure venues in the country.

Italian police break up online network selling fake Covid 'green passes'
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The police said they had broken up a network selling false evidence of health status and identified four suspects, including two minors, in an ongoing investigation.

“Thousands of users were registered on well-known communication platforms where fake green passes were offered for sale, with an absolute guarantee of anonymity, to be paid in cryptocurrency or vouchers for online shopping platforms, at a price between 150 and 500 euro ($175 to $590),” Italy’s postal police (Polizia Postale e delle Comunicazioni) said in a statement.

READ ALSO: ‘Do you have your green pass?’: Tourists caught short as Italy brings in new Covid rules

Police added they had shut down 32 groups within instant messaging app Telegram as part of the investigation.

The green pass became compulsory on Friday in Italy to gain entry into cinemas, museums, indoor sports venues, or for indoor dining at restaurants.

The pass shows that bearers have received at least one vaccine dose, have recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months, or have tested negative in the previous 48 hours.

It will also be required on long-distance trains and buses after September 1st, and will be mandatory for school and university staff as well as university students.

Q&A: Your questions answered about Italy’s new Covid health pass

A bar owner uses the VerifyC19 mobile phone application to scan a green pass in central Rome. Photo: Andreas SOLARO/AFP

At the end of July, reports in Italian media revealed that fake passes were being sold on social networks.

A price list and different payment methods were reportedly offered on Telegram, with the cost rising to €120 for a paper version. Family packages offer people four or six green passes at a time, at a cost of between €300 and €450.

Potential buyers were promised a working QR code featuring their details within 48-72 hours without needing to be vaccinated,  tested, or show proof of having recovered from Covid-19.

READ ALSO: 

Those found falsifying the Covid health pass will face penalties, according to media reports.

Failing to follow the rules can earn both customers and businesses a fine of between €400 and €1,000, while businesses that are found to repeatedly fail to check customers’ health passes risk being forced to close for up to ten days.

The police probe into the sale of fake health documents came as 20 million people downloaded their official green passes in the past three days, according to Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

“It’s an extraordinary number that shows the awareness and participation of citizens of our country in the fight against Covid,” Speranza wrote on Facebook.

Meanwhile thousands of others have reportedly been unable to access the document due to technical problems in recent weeks, despite being vaccinated.

Find the latest updates in our green pass news section and further details on the official website (currently only available in Italian).

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ROME

Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome’s Trevi Fountain

With the return of tourism and scorching temperatures, Rome’s fountains are once again attracting visitors hoping to cool off with a midnight swim.

Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome's Trevi Fountain

In the latest incident, a 26-year-old Spanish man was fined 450 euros after taking a dip in the Trevi Fountain in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Rome’s city police apprehended and fined the man after he was spotted swimming in the 18th-century monument at around 5am, according to local media reports.

READ ALSO: How to keep cool like an Ancient Roman in Italy’s summer heat

Every summer, hapless foreign visitors face fines of hundreds of euros after falling foul of Rome’s strict ban on taking a dip in public fountains – with the city mayor warning tourists that the centuries-old Baroque monuments are “not swimming pools”.

In April, two Dutch tourists also faced fines totalling over €1,000 after their own ill-advised splash in the Trevi Fountain.

The Roman landmark is one of the city’s main magnets for badly-behaved visitors, but tourists have also been fined after cooling off in the Santa Maria fountain in Trastevere, believed to be the city’s oldest. 

Since 2018, anyone caught misbehaving at Rome’s monuments can also face a temporary ‘Daspo’ ban from the area – similar to an ASBO (anti-social behaviour order) in the UK – which allows city police to restrict the movement of people they deem a threat to public order.

READ ALSO: From selfie brawls to midnight swims: Tourists behaving badly at the Trevi Fountain

But a plan to erect a one-metre-high glass and steel barrier around the Trevi fountain to protect it from unruly visitors now appears to have been abandoned after arts and heritage experts called the idea “foolish”.

Fines for swimming in the fountains have been in place since 2015, but this hasn’t stopped determined visitors from recreating scenes from La Dolce Vita and even some locals from taking a dip – – with or without their clothes.

Swimming in the wrong place is just one of the offences regularly committed by visitors, with graffiti and vandalism a common problem at many of Italy’s famous monuments.

READ ALSO: 15 strange ways to get into trouble on holiday in Italy

In Rome alone, this year tourists have made headlines for everything from breaking into the Colosseum to enjoy a drink with a view to driving a car down the Spanish Steps.

Other Italian tourism hotspots, including Florence and Venice, also have varying local rules in place aimed at curbing rowdy behaviour.

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