South African authorities have seized hundreds of fake COVID-19 vaccines following a global alert issued by INTERPOL warning vaccines would be a prime target for criminal networks.
Some 400 ampoules – equivalent to around 2,400 doses – containing the fake vaccine were found at a warehouse in Germiston, Gauteng, where officers also recovered a large quantity of fake 3M masks and arrested three Chinese nationals and a Zambian national.
In China, police successfully identified a network selling counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines, raided the manufacturing premises, resulting in the arrest of some 80 suspects, and seized more than 3,000 fake vaccines on the scene.
The investigation was supported and facilitated by INTERPOL’s Illicit Goods and Global Health (IGGH) Programme.
The arrests came just weeks after INTERPOL issued an Orange Notice warning law enforcement to prepare for organized crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online.
The alert also included details and images of genuine vaccines and authorized shipping methods provided by pharmaceutical companies to assist in the identification of fake vials.
It again underlined the unique role played by INTERPOL in ensuring law enforcement across its 194 member countries are updated on crime trends and can swiftly and securely exchange information.
Tip of the iceberg
“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.
“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.