17 Feb 2021: China arrests leader of multimillion dollar COVID-19 vaccine scam
China has arrested the leader of a multimillion dollar scam involved in the preparation and selling of fake COVID-19 vaccines, as Beijing began a crackdown on vaccine-related crimes across the country.
The accused, identified as Kong, and his team passed off saline solution and mineral water as vaccines, and had made more than 58,000 of such concoctions until his arrest.
Ruling: A profit of $2.78 million was made via the scam
According to a court ruling, Kong and his team posted a profit of ¥18 million ($2.78 million) by putting saline solution/mineral water in syringes and administering them as COVID-19 vaccine doses since August last year, BBC reports.
A batch of 600 of these "vaccines" was sent to Hong Kong in November, before being shipped abroad. It remains unclear where they were eventually sent.
Fact: Kong had researched packaging designs of real vaccines
Kong, 33, had reportedly researched the packaging designs of real COVID-19 vaccines and used similar methods to prepare the fake ones. The sales were made claiming that the vaccines were acquired through "internal channels" of genuine manufacturers.
Similar crimes: 70 arrested in 21 fake vaccine-related cases
Kong is among 70 people arrested thus far in 21 vaccine-related cases, most of which came to light during the initial phases of coronavirus vaccine roll-out last year.
In other similar cases, bogus vaccines were sold at inflated prices in hospitals.
Some other criminals even held inoculation programs and had "village doctors" vaccinate people with fake doses in their homes and cars.
Other details: China's highest prosecuting body urges cooperation
Notably, the Supreme People's Procuratorate has urged regional agencies to cooperate with the police in a bid to check such fraudulent activities.
Chinese officials had hoped to administer 100 million COVID-19 doses by last week, but have managed to vaccinate 40 million people so far.
Nevertheless, the country has been able to bring the pandemic largely under control through strict lockdown, testing and tracing.
Fact: China reports 89,795 total coronavirus cases
At the time of writing, China, where the pandemic originated in late 2019, had reported 89,795 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,636 deaths due to it, according to Worldometers. Meanwhile, the USA remains the worst-affected while India the second-worst hit country in the outbreak.