28/29 October 2020
During the current Sars-CoV-2 outbreak, there are sometimes delivery problems with medicines, medical devices and protective equipment. Protective face masks are also running short. Unfortunately, this also brings up many fraudsters, as a case revealed by Interpol shows.
In the present case, a German authority had commissioned two buyers to get a total of 10 million face masks. A company in Spain was contacted, which stated that it could supply the 10 million masks. However, the delivery failed. As a kind of consolation, the company passed the offer on to a "trusted" dealer in Ireland. This middleman promised to be able to deliver the 10 million masks through a supplier in the Netherlands. A partial delivery of 1.5 million masks was initially agreed at a price of 1.5 million Euros. At the same time, the buyers were preparing the delivery with 52 vans including police protection.
Shortly before the delivery date, the buyers were informed that the money had not arrived and another direct payment of € 800,000 was necessary, this time to the supplier from the Netherlands. This payment was also made, but the masks were never delivered.
Through the cooperation of several banks, judicial authorities, Europol and Interpol, it emerged that the company's website and email address in Spain had already been falsified. The same applies to the supplier from the Netherlands. The company does exist, but because of the falsifications, "there was no official record of the order".
The authorities acted quickly by freezing the € 1.5 million that went to Ireland. Of the € 800,000 that went to the Netherlands, € 500,000 had already been transferred to Nigeria, but have been brought back.
To date, two suspects have been arrested. "Those arrested in this case had no connections to the medical equipment industry. They were simply experienced fraudsters who saw an opportunity with the outbreak of COVID-19", says Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL General Secretary.