JOHANNESBURG, 5 March 2021 – Police in South Africa and China have seized thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccines from criminal gangs seeking to make a quick buck.
More than 80 people have been arrested in operations coordinated by the international police organization INTERPOL.
Raids in eastern China uncovered a criminal network distributing counterfeit vaccines.
Police seized more than 3,000 fake vaccine doses on the manufacturing premises in eastern China, where over 80 people were arrested.
Police in South Africa found and seized 400 ampoules of fake vaccine, enough for about 2,400 doses, during a raid on a warehouse just outside Johannesburg.
Counterfeit masks were also seized during the Johannesburg raid in which three Chinese nationals and one Zambian were arrested.
A Chinese police spokesperson told reporters that the government takes vaccine trafficking seriously and is taking every precaution to track down and arrest all criminal gangs involved with the crime.
Investigators at INTERPOL’s illicit goods and global health program, who coordinated research leading to the dismantling of the network, have said they will not stop until they dismantle criminal gangs from exploiting the pandemic.
Discovery of this network represents “only the tip of the iceberg” of vaccine-related crime, Jurgen Stock, Secretary-General of INTERPOL warned Thursday.
Security officials in the UK and the US have issued separate warnings that hostile countries and criminal gangs are seeking to disrupt COVID-19 vaccine supply chains.
The Financial Times warned Thursday that there is a boom in vaccine sales on the dark web, with people scammed of their money by criminals who either do not deliver the promised vaccines or who deliver fake vaccines.