The seizure of around 2 400 doses (400 ampoules) of fake COVID-19 vaccine in Germiston by South African police following an Interpol global alert is, according to the international police agency, proof of its claim vaccines will be “a prime target for criminal networks”.
The raid on the warehouse in Gauteng’s Ekurhuleni Metro saw fake 3M masks recovered in addition to the bogus vaccine. Three Chinese nationals and a Zambian were arrested.
The Interpol global alert, in addition to the South African operation, saw Chinese police identify a network selling counterfeit vaccines. The manufacturing premises were raided, 80 suspects arrested and three thousand fake vaccines confiscated.
The investigation was supported and facilitated by Interpol’s Illicit Goods and Global Health (IGGH) Programme.
The arrests came weeks after Interpol issued an Orange Notice warning law enforcement to prepare for organised crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, physically and online.
The alert included details and images of genuine vaccines and authorised shipping methods provided by pharmaceutical companies to assist in identification of fake vials.
“This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine related crime,” Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said.
“Following our warning that criminals would target distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, both on and offline, Interpol will continue to support national authorities working to protect the health and safety of their citizens.”
Supporting him, according to an Interpol statement, is the SA Police Service (SAPS).
“Since COVID-19 reached South Africa, government adopted an integrated multi-disciplinary law enforcement approach. This, together with our association with counterparts from Interpol member countries, is proving effective seen in the arrests of foreign nationals attempting to peddle fake vaccines to unsuspecting people,” SAPS Brigadier Vish Naidoo said.