Fake COVID Vaccine Distribution Network In China Dismantled After Interpol Alert
Police in South Africa seized hundreds of fake COVID-19 vaccines and make several arrests in November, 2020, following a global alert by INTERPOL – leading to the recent arrest in China of the global trafficking ring.

LYON, France – Chinese police have successfully identified a network selling counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines as far away as Africa, raiding the manufacturing premises, arresting some 80 suspects, and seizing more than 3,000 fake vaccines on the scene, according to  the global INTERPOL agency [International Criminal Police Organization]. The investigation was supported and facilitated by INTERPOL’s Illicit Goods and Global Health (IGGH) Programme.

The China-South Africa trafficking ring, the first confirmed instance of fake vaccine smuggling across continents, was first identified in a February 2021 Health Policy Watch report of the exclusive investigation by the South African journal, Bhekisisa, Little Vials, Big Crime, Criminals Primed For Onslaught on Africa’s Vaccines.

The story warned of the risks of organized crime flooding Africa and other markets with fake COVID-19 vaccines – and cited the case of 2,400 fake vaccine doses imported from China, and discovered in a warehouse outside of Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport, by South African authorities in November 2020.

As Interpol told Bhekisisa, the “vaccines” had been advertised for sale on a Chinese social media app, WeChat, and had been imported from Singapore as “cosmetic injections”.  South African authorities arrested three Chinese and a Zambian national in connection with the counterfeit goods seizure.

Fake vaccine vials seized by South African police in November 2020, as a result of INTERPOL warnings, leading to the recent arrests in China of the trafficking ring.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine related crime,” Jürgen Stock, the agency’s secretary general, noted in the agency’s most recent statement on Wednesday, March 3, on the arrests in China of the traffickers.

In addition to the arrests in South Africa and China, INTERPOL is also receiving additional reports of fake vaccine distribution and scam attempts targeting health bodies, such as nursing homes, the agency said in its statement.

Read the Interpol statement on the arrests and follow-up investigation here:

Image Credits: Interpol , INTERPOL.

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