European law enforcement agency Europol said Tuesday that it had foiled an attempt to cheat German health authorities by selling them millions of euros worth of non-existent face masks amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, APA reports citing Anadolu Agency.
Europol said in a statement that two companies were contracted by the German government last month to buy face masks valued at 15 million euros ($16.4 million).
The companies, based in Hamburg and Zurich, got in touch with a supplier firm registered in Spain to purchase a total of 10 million medical masks.
When the sale failed to materialize, the two companies were referred to a dealer in Ireland who said he would connect them with a supplier in the Netherlands.
An initial deal was struck, with the two companies paying 1.5 million euros ($1.65 million) for 1.5 million masks.
The companies arranged for 52 trucks to transport the masks along with a police escort to ensure their safety.
But just before the scheduled delivery, the swindlers demanded an additional 880,000 euros ($966,000) “to secure the merchandise.”
Irish security authorities blocked the initial payment and their counterparts in the Netherlands arrested two suspects linked to the organization.
In a recently issued report, Europol called on people to be on guard against those seeking to exploit the coronavirus crisis.