The South African Police have revealed details of the high profile international investigation into a global syndicate leading up to the seizure of fake Covid-19 vaccine doses and the arrest of four suspects in Gauteng. 

Police spokesperson Brenda Muridili said the Gauteng Organised Crime Narcotics team had acted on intelligence received regarding  individuals who were involved in the smuggling, storing and distributing of a fake COVID-19 vaccine in late 2020. 

“The members firstly conducted observations at the suspected premises,” Muridili said.

“The following day…a multi-disciplinary team comprising members from Customs and Excise, SAPS K9 Units from Benoni and West Rand as well as Randburg Visible Policing conducted a tactical disruptive operation at the storage facility in Growthpoint Industrial Park, Bell Street in Meadowdale, Germiston,” she said.

“During the search of the premises a large quantity of counterfeit 3M-branded N95 masks valued at R6 million, were found in one of the rented warehouses.  A further search lead to the discovery of 400 ampoules of illicit, unregistered Covid-19 vaccine,” Muridili said.

Fake Covid-19 vaccine doses seized

“Another warehouse was identified and searched where counterfeit clothing and shoes worth about R25 million was found.”

Police arrested four suspects, Charles Chigwedere 45, Liang Pengcheng 31,  Zhang Jian 30 and Chen Jianfu 41.

“The four were arrested and charged with the contravention of Counterfeit Goods Act, contravention of Customs and Excise act, for false declaration of goods, as well as contravention of the Medicines and Related Substances Act,” she said.

Muridili said a case was opened at the Bedfordview Police Station. The alleged smugglers of the fake Covid-19 vaccine appeared in the Germiston Magistrates’ Court where they were granted bail of various sums.  Jian was granted bail of R150 000 bail and the other three are out on R100 000 bail each. 

“They appeared in court twice and on 19 February their case was postponed to 28 May 2021 for further investigation,” Muridili said.

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Presh JM Reporter

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