Fake coronavirus vaccine seizures in China, South Africa just ‘tip of the iceberg,’ Interpol warns

Fake coronavirus vaccine seizures in China, South Africa just ‘tip of the iceberg,’ Interpol warns

Washington: First came the fake medical-grade masks and coronavirus tests. Now, a new threat has emerged, global police organisation Interpol warns: fake doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

Interpol said on Wednesday (Europe time) that police in China and South Africa have seized thousands of doses of fake vaccines – a cache it said was just the “tip of the iceberg.”

Ppolicemen interrogate a suspect in connection with fake COVID-19 vaccines in a detention center in Kunshan in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province in December.Credit:AP

South African authorities recently seized 400 vials, which held around 2400 doses, of counterfeit vaccines from a warehouse outside Johannesburg, Interpol said in a report on Wednesday.

The illicit stash also included fake 3M masks. South African officers apprehended three Chinese citizens and one Zambian national in relation to the raid.

In China, police seized a large cache of fake vaccine and arrested about 80 suspects during a recent raid on a manufacturing site, Interpol said.

“Whilst we welcome this result, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine related crime,” said Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock in a statement.

Policemen seize cash in China’s Jiangsu Province in 2020, where police have arrested more than 80 suspected members of a criminal group that was manufacturing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, including to other countries.

Policemen seize cash in China’s Jiangsu Province in 2020, where police have arrested more than 80 suspected members of a criminal group that was manufacturing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, including to other countries. Credit:AP

“Following our warning that criminals would target the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, both on and offline, Interpol continues to provide its full support to national authorities working to protect the health and safety of their citizens.”

In December, Interpol warned of a likely growing threat of crime related to coronavirus vaccines, “with the pandemic having already triggered unprecedented opportunistic and predatory criminal behaviour,” the statement said.

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