Interpol, the police body in charge of combating international crimes, announced on Wednesday that South African and Chinese authorities have seized thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccines in their respective territories, in which at least 85 people were arrested.
In a release details that the investigation of both operations was supported and facilitated by its program of illicit goods and global health (IGGH, for its acronym in English).RELATED
In South Africa, the equivalent of 2,400 doses were seized in a warehouse in the city of Germiston, in Gauteng province. There local authorities also confiscated “a large quantity” of 3M model masks. In the operation, three Chinese citizens and one from Zambia were arrested.
In China, police dismantled a ring selling fake COVID-19 vaccines after raiding the manufacturing facility. 80 suspects were arrested and “more than 3,000 bogus vaccines” were seized.
For Jürgen Stock, Secretary General of Interpol, whose headquarters are in Lyon (south-eastern France), these operations are only “the tip of the iceberg” of the problem of counterfeit vaccines.
The multilateral body explains that the investigations continue in parallel with the arrests in South Africa and China: “We have received reports about the distribution of fake vaccines and attempted fraud in the health area such as nursing homes,” he says.
The arrests came a few weeks after Interpol issued an orange alert warning law enforcement agencies to brace for organized crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and on-line. The agency recalls that currently there are no approved vaccines for sale online and any vaccine advertised on web pages “will not have been tested and may be dangerous.”