China arrests kingpin of fake Covid vaccine gang

The leader of the gang, identified as Kong, packaged some 58000 doses of saline and mineral water solutions as anti Covid vaccine and sold them in batches including to unidentified countries.
In this image taken from video footage run by China's CCTV, policemen seize fake Covid-19 vaccines in Kunshan in eastern China's Jiangsu Province, on November 18, 2020. (AP file)
In this image taken from video footage run by China's CCTV, policemen seize fake Covid-19 vaccines in Kunshan in eastern China's Jiangsu Province, on November 18, 2020. (AP file)
Published on Feb 16, 2021 05:31 PM IST
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BySutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Vinod Janardhanan

China has arrested dozens of suspects including the kingpin of a gang who packaged and sold thousands of doses of fake Covid-19 vaccines in the country and abroad, state media reports said.

The leader of the gang, identified as Kong, packaged some 58,000 doses of saline and mineral water solutions as anti-Covid vaccine and sold them in batches including to unidentified countries. They made profit worth some 18million yuan ($2.78mn).

Kong closely studied the design of vaccine packages available in the market and online before launching the multi-million-dollar fraud, official news agency Xinhua said in a report.

The report did not say to which country the fake vaccines were smuggled to.

Though the racket was busted last year, and formal arrests were made weeks ago, the information about the fake vaccine racket was only released by the government this week.

At least 70 people have been arrested in similar fake vaccine scandals until early this month, the report added.

Police from several provinces including capital Beijing were involved in the investigation, raids and arrests, the report said.

The suspects had been profiting from the illegal manufacturing and sales of the vaccines since as early as September 2020, it has emerged.

Kong and his accomplices allegedly told potential buyers that the vaccines were sourced through channels working within real vaccine manufacturers; some batches were sold at inflated prices to hospitals.

“The police investigations showed much of the counterfeit vaccines were merely saline solutions scalped at a very high price. Some of the fake vaccines were smuggled out of the country, which has tarnished Chinese brand vaccines,” the Xinhua report added.

China’s top agency for investigation and prosecution, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Monday asked procuratorates across the country to cooperate with public security authorities to crackdown on crimes involving the production and sale of counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines.

China, which had given 40.52 million doses of vaccine to key groups of people by February 9, has largely managed to bring the Covid-19 pandemic under control – notwithstanding a few localised outbreaks recently - with strict lockdowns, testing and contact tracing measures.

China had plans to vaccinate 50 million citizens before the start of the ongoing Lunar New Year holiday but seems to have fallen short of the target.

A state media report said last week that China is providing vaccine aid to 53 developing countries and exporting vaccines to 22 countries.

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