Fraudsters from Netherlands, with the help of an Irish company, launched a fraudulent scheme for the sale of protective masks in Germany against the backdrop of the coronavirus epidemic, Interpol reports.
“In mid-March, as a number of countries were going into lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, German health authorities contracted two sales companies in Zurich and Hamburg to procure EUR 15 million worth of face masks. With a global shortage on medical supplies complicating usual business channels, the buyers followed new leads in the hopes of securing the masks.”Interpol.
Communication was carried out using e-mail and a website similar to the site of a real company. Allegedly not having the necessary amount of remedies, the “sellers” associated the buyer with a “trusted seller from Ireland”, who in turn promised to establish contact with the supplier in the Netherlands.
As a result, an agreement was signed for the supply of 1.5 million masks, which implied an advance payment of 1.5 million euros. Buyers transferred the necessary funds to the seller’s account and prepared vehicles for transporting an order from an Irish warehouse to Germany – 52 trucks and a police train. However, on the eve of the delivery, sellers stated that they had not received the money and demanded that 880 thousand euros be transferred directly to the Dutch supplier.
“The buyers sent the wire transfer and the masks never arrived. It turns out the Dutch company existed, but their website had also been cloned. There was no official record of the order.”
Deceived buyers turned to their bank in Germany, which, in turn, contacted Interpol. As a result of operational work, it was possible to freeze 1.5 million euros and establish an Irish company. Dutch services also tracked the path of 880 thousand euros, about 500 thousand euros have already been transferred to the UK, and the end point of the transfer was an account in Nigeria. As a result, the funds were returned to the Netherlands and frozen by local authorities.
According to the organization’s secretary general, Jurgen Stock, “the people detained as a result of the investigation were not involved in the medical technology industry, but were experienced scammers who took advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The World Health Organization on March 11 announced an outbreak of a new coronavirus infection COVID-19 with a pandemic. According to the latest WHO data, more than 1.7 million cases of infection have been recorded in the world, more than 110 thousand people have died.