Police nab suspect behind €6m masks, sanitiser scam

A 39-year old man has been arrested in Singapore for his suspected involvement in money laundering offences linked to a business email scam-related to COVID-19.

The unnamed person was usurping the identity of a legitimate company and advertised the fast delivery of FFP2 surgical masks and hand sanitisers, according to European police agency Europol.

His activities were uncovered after an EU member state reported to Europol that one of its pharma companies had been defrauded of €6.64m ($7.2m) after placing an order for the offered goods, which are essential protective equipment as the coronavirus pandemic gathers pace.

“Once the pharmaceutical company transferred the funds to a bank in Singapore, the items were never delivered and the supplier became uncontactable,” it said in a statement.

Europol immediately got in touch with the authorities in Singapore to block the payment. The Singaporean authorities identified the man who had received the funds and subsequently arrested him on March 25.

Last month, police in the Netherlands arrested a man and women – both aged 27 – who have been accused of offering millions of euros worth of face masks for sale that likely didn’t exist.

Europol released a report in March warning that criminal networks are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic with a surge in cybercrime, targeted thefts and counterfeiting.

It said criminals are cashing in on high demand for protective gear and pharmaceutical products, for example by counterfeiting or stealing scarce goods to order.

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