Europol thwarts face mask scam worth millions

Europol thwarts face mask scam worth millions

Law enforcement agency arrests two suspects linked to swindlers attempting to exploit coronavirus crisis

By Selman Aksunger

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AA) - European law enforcement agency Europol said Tuesday that it had foiled an attempt to cheat German health authorities by selling them millions of euros worth of non-existent face masks amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Europol said in a statement that two companies were contracted by the German government last month to buy face masks valued at 15 million euros ($16.4 million).

The companies, based in Hamburg and Zurich, got in touch with a supplier firm registered in Spain to purchase a total of 10 million medical masks.

When the sale failed to materialize, the two companies were referred to a dealer in Ireland who said he would connect them with a supplier in the Netherlands.

An initial deal was struck, with the two companies paying 1.5 million euros ($1.65 million) for 1.5 million masks.

The companies arranged for 52 trucks to transport the masks along with a police escort to ensure their safety.

But just before the scheduled delivery, the swindlers demanded an additional 880,000 euros ($966,000) “to secure the merchandise.”

Irish security authorities blocked the initial payment and their counterparts in the Netherlands arrested two suspects linked to the organization.

In a recently issued report, Europol called on people to be on guard against those seeking to exploit the coronavirus crisis.

*Writing by Ali Murat Alhas

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