Recently, the Hong Kong government has purchased more than six million face masks for use amid the coronavirus pandemic, which were revealed to be fake, resulting in four arrests.
Fake surgical masks
On Thursday, it was reported that the Government Logistics Department (GLD) purchased the masks in March. The items were labeled by Medicom, a medical equipment supplier that operates around the world.
According to NewsWeek, customs officers announced that the false labeling was used to hide the fact that the masks were fake.
Almost half of the 6.7 million masks the government purchased have already been distributed across 11 government departments in Hong Kong. However, Medicom Asia revealed that it was not the one who supplied the massive amount of masks that Hong Kong's GLD bought earlier in the year.
In a press conference on Thursday, the head of trade control at customs in the country, Mak Yuk-Kam, announced an investigation was underway to figure out who was behind the malicious sale immediately after a crime report was sent to customs of the fake masks being given to the GLD.
During the conference, Mak revealed the investigation had led them to discover that a local trader A from the mainland supplied the fake masks through a local trader B and over to the GLD. It was also found that the information of a mainland mask manufacturer was found on each box of masks, including their name and address.
Mak added further examination of the fake items; the mainland manufacturer denied that it was responsible for producing the masks.
Who are responsible?
The official also announced on Thursday that they had made four arrests connected with the crime; two men and two women were taken into custody over violation of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance., as reported by the South China Morning Post.
The suspects were the leader of an import firm, and its director, along with two other employees of a separate company, allegedly supplied the fake masks to the GLD. The four perpetrators have since been released on bail while the investigation is still ongoing.
Mak announced the GLD had requested the departments that received the masks not to use them and have planned to take them back. He added the GLD was making preparations to recover losses and damages from the supplier.
The masks reportedly passed safety checks, but the material used for their nose pin had poor quality, and the outer layer's color was paler than authentic masks.
According to Yahoo News, customs previously launched an expansive citywide operation named "Guardian" at the beginning of January that aimed to locate retail shops and pharmacies that were selling non-standard or lower quality surgical masks and other medical equipment.
The operation had so far conducted at least 35,000 inspections on retail stores as investigations are conducted on 13 cases of alleged violations of the trade law and 11 cases of alleged violations of the consumer goods safety law.
So far, officials have arrested 61 people and recovered approximately 124,000 substandard masks, 306 bottles of alcohol, and 23 bottles of saline solution.