Two arrested for ‘illegally selling’ coronavirus testing kits
Two men have been arrested on suspicion of illegally selling coronavirus testing kits during a National Crime Agency (NCA) crackdown on criminals attempting to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NCA also took down a website trying to trick victims into buying suspected non-existent personal protective equipment through phishing emails.
On Saturday (April 11), NCA officers arrested a 46-year-old pharmacist from Croydon, South London, and seized around £20,000. He was arrested under the Fraud Act 2006 after making false and misleading claims about the tests’ capability.
Two properties and a car linked to the suspect were searched. He was released on conditional bail.
In a separate investigation on Sunday (April 12), a 39-year-old surveyor from Uxbridge, West London, was stopped in his car. Inside the vehicle were 250 Covid-19 testing kits. He was also arrested under the Fraud Act 2006 after making false and misleading claims about the capability of the tests.
He told investigators he was planning on selling the kits to construction workers. He was released on conditional bail.
Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigations, said bringing those attempting to profit in this way to justice and ceasing their activities was “a key priority” across law enforcement. “Criminals capitalise on fear and anxiety and they will exploit any opportunity, no matter how awful, to line their pockets,” she added. “Illegally selling testing kits completely undermines the nation’s collective response to the pandemic and actually endangers lives.”
Graeme Biggar, Director-General of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: “Covid-19 is increasingly being used as a hook to commit fraud – and we think these offences are likely to increase during the pandemic. “Individuals and businesses need to be fully prepared for criminals trying to turn the pandemic to their advantage by scamming them out of money. Law enforcement, government and the private sector are working together to protect the public and combat these offenders.”
The NCA said offenders typically target people trying to buy medical supplies online, sending emails offering fake medical support and scamming people who may be vulnerable or isolated at home.
Tariq Sarwar, Head of Operations for Enforcement at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said it was committed to working with law enforcement to protect public health and prevent unsafe medicines and medical devices getting to the public.
“The use of products for the diagnosis of coronavirus infection in community settings, such as pharmacies, for home use, is not at present advised by Public Health England,” he added. “There are no CE marked tests for home use, and it is illegal to supply such products. The safety, performance or quality of the products cannot be guaranteed and this poses a health risk.”