The South African Police Service’s (SAPS’s) Vishnu Naidoo confirmed the incident in November where three suspects were arrested following the seizure of counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines in Germiston.
It is believed that several hundreds of ampules of unregistered vaccines were imported from China, with Interpol saying they were advertised as for sale on WeChat.
When law-enforcement authorities searched the industrial park in Germiston, they also came across and confiscated a large quantity of fake N95 masks.
At the beginning of December, Interpol issued a global alert to law enforcement across its 194 member countries warning them to prepare for organised crime networks targeting Covid-19 vaccines, both physically and online.
“Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives,” Interpol said.
“With an increasing amount of Covid-related frauds, Interpol is also advising members of the public to take special care when going online to search for medical equipment or medicines.”
On 23 December, Interpol published a purple notice on the seizure in South Africa.
A purple notice is issued by Interpol “to seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices, and concealment methods used by criminals”.
According to their website, Interpol notices are made available to all its member countries, but “most notices are for police use only and are not made available to the public”.
“However, in some cases, for example, to alert the public, or to request help from the public, an extract of the notice can be published.”
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)’s spokesperson, Phindi Mjonondwane says the accused in this matter appeared in court in Germiston and are out on R100 000 bail.
They are due back in court on 19 February 2021.