French authorities are investigating the alleged existence of over 110,000 fake certificates of vaccination against COVID-19, which are required to enter restaurants, cultural venues or ride long-distance public transport.
Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said some 400 investigations have been opened since the passes were first introduced around half a year ago, leading to more than 100 arrests between buyers and issuers of those documents.
The problem with fake health passes is that it is often in complicity with real doctors or nurses, explained Darmanin in a TV interview.
But if people holding a fake pass acknowledge their mistakes and get vaccinated we shall be lenient, but if they don't we'll convict them, the minister added on Twitter.
Some prison sentences have already been handed down, particularly for pass users, said Darmanin, who stressed that using or forging vaccination passes might entail up to five years in prison.
A Cantal doctor was given last week a six-month suspended prison sentence, plus a five-year ban to practice medicine and a fine of € 40,000 for issuing 35 fake health passes this year.
The 75-year-old culprit, who said he did not charge his patients for his certificates, likened the vaccine campaign carried out by the government to a gene therapy. He also admitted he had given fake passes to caregivers working in nursing homes.
Another physician in Val-de-Marne has been indicted and placed in pre-trial detention in November on the suspicion that he had sold at least 220 fake health passes.