Chinese authorities arrested a scammer whose gang made around $3 million from selling saline solutions as fake COVID-19 vaccines.
Chinese authorities say that they have arrested the leader of a gang, who along with his several co-scammers, sold tens of thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccine shots across China, Business Insider reported.
The Supreme People's Procuratorate, China's top prosecuting body, said that Kong Mou, the gang leader, and his associates sold 58,000 syringes filled with saline solution across China, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
Kong Mou who had boasted to his customers that he had obtained the shots from vaccine manufacturers through "internal channels" was arrested on December 25, 2020, and authorities claimed that they have arrested as many as 80 people involved in that scam.
The Supreme People's Procuratorate has since said it would strengthen its crackdown on fake vaccine manufacturing as there were more than 21 cases of major vaccine fraud across their country.
But Leon Wolf, the managing editor for The Blaze, wrote in an article that since the initial report came from the Chinese government, it should "perhaps be received with skepticism."
As of this month, China has only two approved COVID-19 vaccines for public use. A vaccine made by Sinovac was approved on Feb 6 for general use, following the approval of a vaccine made by Sinopharm on December 31.
According to state-run Global Times, the group earned over 18 million yuan (about $2.8 million) for scamming people with fake COVID-19 vaccine shots before they were arrested by the authorities.
Last November alone, Kong sold 2,000 fake vaccines for 1.04 million yuan to another suspect named Li, who later resold the counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines at a higher price of 1.32 million yuan.
A BBC report says that Kong carefully studied the packaging design of the real vaccines to create a more realistic and convincing replica of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Some of the said counterfeit vaccines were even sold to hospitals in China who are desperate for vaccine doses due to the underproduction of vaccines that are not able to supply their population of over 1 billion people.
Chinese officials were hoping to administer 100 million COVID vaccine doses before the Lunar New Year last week but have since only vaccinated around 40 million people so far.
Other doses of the vaccines are then said to be administered directly by the alleged criminal syndicate, which reportedly set up fake vaccination clinics and charged people in cash for doses or shipped them to "village doctors" who also ran vaccination programs in remote locations in China.
The Chinese government also claimed that a batch of about 600 counterfeit vaccines manufactured by Hong Kong was smuggled to Hong Kong before being shipped overseas, and the location of those said shipped vaccines is currently unknown.
The Chinese government also added that the people who bought the fake COVID-19 doses are more likely unaware that they have purchased fake ones.