Hong Kong Bought 6 Million Masks That Turned Out to Be Fake, 4 Arrested

The Hong Kong government recently purchased over 6 million face masks that turned out to be fake, prompting four arrests.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) Thursday, the masks were purchased by the Government Logistics Department (GLD) in March. The fake masks were labeled under Medicom, a supplier of medical equipment across the globe, but the SCMP reported that customs officers said the fake labeling was used to mislead the public.

Nearly half of the 6.7 million masks have already been distributed to 11 government departments in Hong Kong, according to the SCMP. However, Medicom Asia has asserted that it has not supplied masks to Hong Kong's GLD since earlier this year.

While speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Mak Yuk-kam, head of trade control at customs in Hong Kong, said that an investigation was launched "immediately after" customs received a crime report about the fake masks being supplied to the GLD.

"Investigations revealed that the masks in question were imported from the Mainland by local trader A and eventually supplied to the GLD through another trader B. It was found that (on) each box of masks in question there (was the) information of a Mainland mask manufacturer including their name and address on here," Mak said during the press conference, according to news.gov.hk. "Upon examination of the mask in question, the representative of this Mainland manufacturer confirmed that the masks in question were not manufactured by them."

The SCMP reported that during the press conference, Mak stated that four arrests have been made, two men and two women, over a violation of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. Two of those arrested were the boss of an import firm and its director, while the other two were employees of another company that provided the masks to the GLD. All four have been released on bail and a further investigation is currently pending.

"The GLD has asked the departments not to use the masks and has arranged to have the products returned," Mak said, according to the SCMP. "As far as we know, the GLD is initiating action to recover from the supplier concerned all losses and damages."

A statement released by the GLD on Thursday said that they paid Hong Kong $15.2 million for the masks, which were delivered in batches throughout March.

In January, Hong Kong Customs' began a city-wide operation, named "Guardian," to inspect and stop retail stores and pharmacies that sell surgical masks and other protective medical equipment.

Newsweek reached out to Medicom and the GLD for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Hong Kong masks
HONG KONG, CHINA - JANUARY 29: A woman purchases surgical masks at a store in a shopping mall on January 29, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong government will deny entry for travellers who has been to Hubei province except for local residents in response to tighten the international travel and border crossing to stop the spread of the virus. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images/Getty