Thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccine doses have been seized in South Africa and China as Interpol warned the raids were ‘only the tip of the iceberg.’
The international police body said roughly 2,400 doses of fake coronavirus vaccines in 400 ampoules were seized with a ‘large quantity’ of face masks at a warehouse in Germiston, South Africa.
Chinese police seized more than 3,000 fake vaccines after a raid on a manufacturing plant.
Authorities also confirmed the arrest of 80 suspects at the scene following the raid.
Interpol claimed it had received more reports of criminal vaccine distribution networks targeting nursing homes and other health bodies.
Pictures from the South Africa raids showed boxes stacked up in a largely empty warehouse, and a box full of fake COVID-19 vaccine ampoules.
‘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.
He added: ‘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.’
South African national police said ‘foreign nationals’ trying to sell fake vaccines in the country were among those arrested at the warehouse.
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.’
Interpol earlier this year issued an ‘Orange Notice’ warning authorities worldwide to prepare for organised crime networks targeting Covid-19 vaccines, both physically and online.
The agency also warned that no approved vaccines are currently available for sale online, and said those buying fake doses from criminal networks were putting themselves at risk.
‘Any vaccine being advertised on websites or the dark web will not be legitimate, will not have been tested, and maybe dangerous,’ it said.