World No. 1 Novak Djokovic could face 5-year jail term if found guilty of lying about Covid positive test
World number one Novak Djokovic's new calendar year hasn't begun on the right note. The Serbian landed in Melbourne last week to take part in the Australian Open along with a medical exemption for Covid-19 vaccination, from the Victorian government. However, his visa wasn't cleared and his exemption was tarnished by the authorities at the airport as the 34-year-old was send to a detention centre, i.e. an immigration hotel in Melbourne, for four days.
On Monday (January 10), Djokovic won the court case against the Australian government as the Judge Anthony Kelly ordered the visa cancellation decision to be overturned and granted the Serbian's release from detention with immediate effect. In their court filings, the tennis star Djokovic's lawyers had mentioned that he had tested positive for COVID-19 in December 2021, hence, was granted a 'medical exemption' as the No. 1 ranked player was ineligible to get the jab for the next six months.
While Djokovic has started training in a bid for his 21st Grand Slam title during the forthcoming Australian Open, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has a discretionary personal power which allows him to cancel the player's visa and get him deported out of the country. Hence, all is not over for the tennis superstar. In addition, Djokovic could face five-year jail term if he is found to have lied about his positive Covid test in Australia.
The Serbian sensationally admitted to lying on his entry declaration form and also interacted with others while knowingly infected with the deadly virus. In a sworn court affidavit relied upon by the Federal Circuit Court, Djokovic admitted of being aware of having the infection on 16 December. He said, "On 16 December 2021, I was tested and diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 (Covid)."
However, Djokovic contradicted his own statements and later mentioned in a public statement he was aware of carrying the virus only on 17 December. Under Australia’s Crimes Act, providing misleading information to the court is a crime for which one can be punishable for five years in prison.
Taking his original statement into account, Djokovic, thus, admitted to have broken Serbia’s Covid protocols and was seen out and about despite being positive. For the unversed, the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic had told the BBC that roaming outside despite a positive report is a ‘clear breach’.
Per Article 248 - ‘Failure to Act Pursuant to Health Regulations During Epidemic’ - whoever doesn't adhere to the rules, he, or she, will face a maximum penalty of three years in prison. The findings have come forward following reports that the Australian Border Force is investigating Djokovic after concerns that the Serbian had incorrectly declared he had not travelled - and would not do so for 14 days - prior to his flight to Australia.
Recently, social media posts had made heads turn which appeared to show that Djokovic was in Belgrade on Christmas Day before flying Down Under -- from Spain -- on January 4. On Wednesday (January 12), the tennis star shared a lengthy post on his Instagram handle, where he shifted the blame of his agent who made a mistake in filling his travel form.
Djokovic wrote on his Instagram post, "My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia,” said Djokovic. “This was a human error and certainly not deliberate," he further added.
As of now, the sporting fraternity have their eyes glued on the Australian immigration minister, who can still cancel Djokovic's visa and order his deportation, banning him from entering Australia for a period of three years. A decision is expected on Thursday (January 13).
On the other hand, the Australian Open 2022 edition is set to get underway on January 17.