Interpol: 121 arrests made over counterfeit COVID-19 supplies, medications
Published Friday, March 20, 2020 12:04PM EDT Last Updated Friday, March 20, 2020 12:12PM EDT
TORONTO -- Interpol said 121 arrests were made related to the seizure of conterfeit medical supplies and medication amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interpol, the international organization that facilitates coordinated worldwide police operations, said in a statement that more than 90 countries took part in Operation Pangea XIII, a co-ordinated operation to tackle the illegal online sale of medical products and medicines.
The operation took place from March 3 to March 10.
According to Interpol, 2,000 online advertisements related to the coronavirus were found, selling a range of illicit medical devices, such as substandard hand sanitizers, unauthorized antiviral medication and counterfeit face masks.
Counterfeit face masks were the most advertised products, accounting for almost a third of the online links discovered by law enforcement authorities.
About 326,000 packages were inspected and 34,000 unlicensed and fake products were seized, with an estimated value of more than US$14 million, according to Interpol.
"The seizure of more than 34,000 counterfeit and substandard masks, 'corona spray,' 'coronavirus packages' or 'coronavirus medicine' reveals only the tip of the iceberg regarding this new trend in counterfeiting," the agency said in a statement.
Jürgen Stock, Interpol's Secretary General, said the seizures show that "criminals will stop at nothing to make a profit."
"The illicit trade in such counterfeit medical items during a public health crisis shows their total disregard for people's wellbeing, or their lives."