Scammer Whose Gang Made $3 Million Selling Water As COVID Vaccines Arrested
The leader of a gang that made almost $3 million from selling fake COVID vaccines has been arrested in China.
According to state news agency Xinhua, Chinese authorities said that Kong Mau sold more than 58,000 syringes that he claimed to contain the COVID vaccine, only for buyers to discover they’d been filled with saline solution – or salt water.
The Global Times reports that Kong, who was arrested on Christmas Day last year along with several associates, had made around 18 million yuan (around USD $2.8 million) since August 2020 after telling buyers that he’d gained access to vaccine supplies through ‘internal channels’.
The scammer and his gang reportedly spent time researching the designs of real vaccines currently being rolled out by Chinese manufacturers in order to create convincing fakes. One of the buyers convinced by Kong’s scam even went on to ship 600 of the fake vaccines to international buyers, making his own profit of around $140,000.
Kong’s arrest comes as the Chinese authorities vowed to crack down on suspected vaccine fraud in the country, with the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of China revealing that they had so far arrested 70 people in relation to 21 cases of vaccine-related criminal activity. Most of the arrests are related to cases from last year, but have only been recently revealed in the last few weeks by China’s highest prosecuting agency.
According to the BBC, fake vaccines are becoming a growing problem in the country, with some scammers selling fake doses to hospitals at inflated prices, and others even going as far as to create their own vaccine distribution schemes by sending fake doctors to set up drive-thru vaccination centres in villages.
The Global Times reports that China’s Ministry of Public Security has launched a ‘special campaign’ to root out counterfeit vaccines and smugglers, and has urged regional authorities and legitimate vaccine manufacturers to co-operate with investigations.
There are currently two Chinese manufacturers producing authorised Covid-19 vaccines – Sinovac, which was approved earlier this month, and Sinopharm, which began being rolled out on December 31. Despite concerns over the transparency of China’s vaccine approval process, The Washington Post reports that a number of developing countries are relying on the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines after being ‘squeezed out’ of accessing ‘more reliable’ vaccines produced in the west. The Chinese authorities are also reportedly investigating whether foreign countries that have purchased Chinese-made vaccines have also been targeted by scams.
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