Police on high alert after fake vaccines stored in SA

In November last year, the police arrested four foreign nationals at a warehouse in Germiston where they found thousands of fake vaccines and masks meant for the black market.

South Africa police officers seized hundreds of fake COVID-19 vaccines and made several arrests following a global alert issued by Interpol. Picture: Interpol

JOHANNESBURG - Police on Thursday said they were on high alert and were constantly on the lookout for any information about fake COVID-19 vaccines being stored in South Africa by an international syndicate.

In November last year, the police arrested four foreign nationals at a warehouse in Germiston where they found thousands of fake vaccines and masks meant for the black market.

Details about those arrests only came to light this week.

Local authorities worked closely with Interpol and Chinese police as the counterfeit vaccines were imported from China.

READ MORE: Fake COVID-19 vaccines seized in South Africa, China - Interpol

The accused are currently out on bail of between R100,000 and R150,000 bail but they'll be back in court on 28 May.

Last year, Interpol released an orange notice warning authorities to prepare for organised crime activity around COVID-19 vaccines.

The police's Brenda Murudili said: “There has been an alert that was issued by Interpol prior to this discovery, so the police have always been on the alert including intelligence as well. So, it is something we are continuously looking for.

“The only place where you can get the vaccine is from the government, not private sellers. The was an alert that warned the public to not fall prey to these scams where people are claiming to have the vaccine," said Murudili.

Police have established a committee to focus on the vaccine rollout programme and are monitoring the dark web and the black market to combat the smuggling of fake COVID-19 vaccines.

Murudili said that they were working with Interpol: "We are monitoring the dark web and the black market and making sure that when there are things that are purported to be vaccines that are sold, then they are being investigated and if they are indeed illegal and unregistered then the perpetrators will be arrested."

The counterfeit vials were imported from China.

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