Paris, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- Interpol warned on Thursday about fake medical products related to the coronavirus pandemic being sold online after seizing thousands of substandard masks.
The international police organisation seized counterfeit masks, substandard hand sanitiser and unauthorised antiviral medication in an operation across 90 countries.
A total of 121 people were arrested and potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals worth more than $14 million were confiscated as part of Operation Pangea XIII.
Interpol warned that the pandemic, which started in China in December and has since spread around the world, has allowed criminals to earn quick money by taking advantage of the high demand for protective equipment and medicine.
It identified 2,000 online links advertising items related to Covid-19, with surgical masks being the most common counterfeit product sold online, accounting for around 600 cases.
More than 34,000 counterfeit and substandard masks were confiscated by officers as well as “corona spray”, “coronavirus packages” and “coronavirus medicine”.
Interpol said that the raids were only the tip of the iceberg in the new market of counterfeiting.
Jurgen Stock, Interpol secretary general, said in a statement: “Once again, Operation Pangea shows that criminals will stop at nothing to make a profit.
“The illicit trade in such counterfeit medical items during a public health crisis shows their total disregard for people’s wellbeing or their lives.”
There was an 18 per cent increase in unauthorised antiviral medication being sold online compared to in 2018 and an increase of more than 100 per cent in unauthorised chloroquine (an antimalarial medication), which Interpol said could also be connected to the Covid-19 outbreak.
During the operation’s week of action between March 3 and 10, authorities inspected more than 326,000 packages, with more than 48,000 seized by customs and regulatory authorities.
It also shut down more than 2,500 web links, including websites, social media pages, online marketplaces and online adverts for illicit pharmaceuticals and disrupted the activities of 37 organised criminal groups.
Interpol highlighted the dangers of buying pharmaceuticals from unregulated online sources and warned the fake medicines often contain the wrong amount of the active ingredient or may have expired or been contaminated. EFE-EPA