Interpol have reported that police have seized thousands of coronavirus vaccines in South Africa and China and have arrested over 80 criminals involved in a network, selling fake vaccines.
The investigation was supported and coordinated by Interpol’s Illicit Goods and Global Health (IGGH) Programme.
In South Africa alone, 400 ampoules of fake vaccines, equivalent to 2,400 doses were found at a warehouse outside Johannesburg. Fake 3M masks were also found and police arrested three Chinese nationals and a Zambian national.
In China, police raided the manufacturing premises after successfully identified a network selling fake COVID-19 vaccines. This resulting in the arrest of some 80 suspects in possession of more than 3,000 fake vaccines on the scene.
NEWS: INTERPOL alert leads to dismantling of fake COVID-19 vaccine distribution network. Thousands of illicit vaccines seized and arrests made in South Africa and China. Read more https://t.co/JYt5vQ4dRx— INTERPOL (@INTERPOL_HQ) March 3, 2021
Interpol’s secretary-general Jürgen Stock said the discovery of the network was “only the tip of the iceberg” of COVID-19 vaccine-related crime.
Interpol have previously warned of a risk that criminal networks would capitalise on the global demand for vaccines by stealing real doses or selling fake ones.
Interpol says investigations are ongoing and they are receiving additional reports of fake vaccine distribution and scam attempts targeting health workers, such as nursing homes.
Interpol warned that “no approved vaccines are currently available for sale online” and that “any vaccine being advertised on websites or the dark web, will not be legitimate, will not have been tested and may be dangerous.”
South African Police National Spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo says, “Since COVID-19 reached the shores of South Africa, the government has adopted an integrated multi-disciplinary law enforcement approach.”
“This, together with our association with counterparts from all Interpol member countries, is proving to be very effective as we have seen in the arrests for foreign nationals attempting to peddle fake vaccines to unsuspecting people within South Africa.”