Chinese authorities say that they have arrested a man who, along with several co-conspirators, sold tens of thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccines across China, according to Business Insider.
According to China's top prosecuting agency, a man named Kong Mou was responsible for operating a gang that sold as many as 58,000 syringes that purportedly contained the COVID-19 vaccine, but in fact only contained saline solution. The alleged scheme was successful in raking in about 18 million yuan (the equivalent of almost $3 million) before authorities discovered it and arrested those responsible.
Authorities say that they arrested as many as 80 people involved in the alleged scam, including some of the people Kong Mou and his associates sold the vaccine to, believing that those individuals in turn sold them again for a profit, despite knowing that they were fake.
According to the BBC, Kong studied the packaging of the real vaccines extensively and managed to create replicas of the vaccine that were extremely convincing visually, although of course they conveyed no actual health benefit. Some of the vaccines were sold to hospitals in China, many of which are desperate for vaccine doses, as the Chinese government has only been able to deliver about 40 million vaccine doses to its population of over 1 billion people so far.
Other doses of the vaccine were allegedly administered directly by the alleged criminal syndicate, which reportedly set up fake vaccination clinics and charged people a cash fee for vaccination or shipped them to "village doctors," who ran vaccination programs in remote locations.
The Chinese government also claims that a batch of about 600 of the fake vaccines manufactured by Kong were smuggled to Hong Kong before being shipped overseas, and the whereabouts of those vaccines are currently unknown. According to the Chinese government, the individuals who purchased those vaccines likely did not know that the vaccines they were purchasing were fake.