Mask fraud in Germany
Authorities in Germany have fallen victim to a multi-million-euro fraud involving masks much needed in the coronavirus pandemic. North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state and one of the hardest hit, paid 14,7 million EUR for some 10 million masks in March only to discover they did not exist, according to prosecutors in Traunstein, Bavaria.
The German managing director of two distribution companies based in Zurich and Hamburg raised the alarm after realizing he had been tricked.
According to the man’s police report, he received an offer from companies allegedly based in Asia in mid-March to supply the masks and subsequently attracted the large order from North Rhine-Westphalia.
State authorities transferred 4,7 million EUR to the company, which then made a 2,4 million EUR down payment.
According to the Bavarian investigators, 52 vehicles had been lined up to pick up the coveted masks in the Netherlands and deliver them under police protection.
The distribution company has refunded 12.3 million EUR to the state authorities. However, it remains unclear whether the remaining 2.4 million EUR, which has been frozen in foreign bank accounts, can be recovered.
Masks and other protective medical gear have become hot commodities worldwide as tens of thousands of health workers require them in the frontlines of the war against COVID-19.
The fraud highlights the European lack of self-sufficiency in production of the critical medical gear.
08 April 2020 - EN-