Police seized thousands of fake Covid-19 vaccines in China and South Africa on Wednesday night and arrested scores of suspects, as Interpol warned that the raids could well be "just the tip of the iceberg." The Lyon-based Interpol said roughly 2,400 doses in 400 vials containing the fake vaccine were seized from a warehouse in Germiston outside Johannesburg in South Africa.
In China, police seized more than 3,000 fake vaccines after a raid on a manufacturing plant. The raids come after Interpol issued a global alert in December across its 194 member countries, warning them to prepare for organized crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines.
Tip of the Iceberg
As many as 80 people were arrested during the extensive raids in China and South Africa. In South Africa, during the raids, police along with the fake vaccines also seized fake masks and arrested three Chinese and a Zambian national. Both the raids were supported by Interpol as it claimed it had received more intelligence on criminal networks dealing in fake vaccine distribution and targeting nursing homes and other health bodies.
"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 Juergen Stock. Besides, the global police body also warned that several criminal networks are selling fake Covid-19 vaccines online and people should not get duped.
It warned that no approved vaccines are currently available for sale online. "Any vaccine being advertised on websites or the dark web will not be legitimate, will not have been tested and may be dangerous," said Stock.
The raids are a big breakthrough for Interpol and Chinese and South African police but the France-based global police agency said that fake Covid-19 vaccines have made their way into many countries and authorities should prepare themselves to stop this organized crime.
South African national police said 'foreign nationals' trying to sell fake vaccines in the country were among those arrested at the warehouse. On the other hand, a Chinese Ministry of Public Security spokesperson said: "Chinese police are conducting a targeted campaign to prevent and crack down on crimes related to vaccines, proactively investigating and combating crimes related to vaccines in accordance with law."
The raids come after Interpol in December issued an Orange Notice, warning law enforcement about the criminal networking on coronavirus vaccines. Officers were able to identify the shipment of fake vials on truck trailers by launching probes into the method of shipment opted by the pharmaceutical firms.
Interpol also said that such criminal networks will become cautious after the raids and will now try and look for other means to sell fake Covid vaccines and its member countries should be on high alert.