Man who used fake ‘fit-to-fly’ certificate avoids going to jail

Emmanuel Mehari, 27, arrives at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court

A man who used a fake fit-to-fly Covid-19 certificate to try and board a plane to Egypt has avoided being jailed.

Emmanuel Nere Mehari, 27, was stopped at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 2 on April 12 and found with the forged document.

Mehari pleaded guilty to the charge of possessing or controlling an article for use in fraud at a hearing at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

He was sentenced to a 12-month community order and given 180 hours of unpaid work, as well as a fine of £180.

The court heard that Mehari was attempting to visit an unwell relative but had arrived for the flight not knowing a certificate was required, so had paid £50 to acquire one at the airport.

Jyothi Somavarapu, prosecuting, said Mehari had provided a certificate but was unable to answer “basic questions” about the document, such as when and where he had acquired it, and had then become “argumentative.”

Ms Somavarapu said that a call to the clinic had been made, the certificate had been validated, and Mehari had boarded the plane.

But the airline had been called back by the clinic who stated Mehari had not attended himself and that it had been altered.

“This certificate was a fake,” said Ms Somavarapu, adding that the effects of the offences “could have been disastrous”.

Mehari, of 41, Dimsdale Drive, north west London, appeared in court in person on Tuesday, dressed in a thick green coat and a black face mask.

Sarj Patel, defending, said Mehari “began to panic” at the airport but was remorseful for his actions.

“In that moment of desperation…he just made a foolish decision to go along with someone who was attempting to help him,” he said.

“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.”

Sentencing Mehari, magistrate Inder Birdi said: “That charge and that incident could have caused a lot of harm to a lot of people.

“It is aggravated by the pandemic.

“You have told us your mother is an NHS worker so you should have been aware of the restrictions.”