A Large-Scale Fraud with the Order of 10 Million Masks in Germany
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state and one of the hardest hit, paid 14.7 million euros for some 10 million masks in March only to discover they did not exist, according to prosecutors in Traunstein, Bavaria, quoted by AFP.
Two distribution companies - from Hamburg in Germany and from Zurich in Switzerland - were to deliver masks to authorities in Germany's most populous province. Companies, however, have fallen victim to fraudsters. They paid up to nearly € 2 million in advance to the account of the alleged supplier company, but the masks never arrived. Once the scam was discovered, the North Rhine-Westphalia district, which had already paid € 14.7 million to distribution companies, was able to recover its money.
The distribution company has refunded 12.3 million euros to the state authorities.
However, it remains unclear whether the remaining 2.4 million euros, which has been frozen in foreign bank accounts, can be recovered.
The strong demand for this type of remedies has caused ruthless competition between different countries, AFP notes. Sometimes there are even squabbles between EU Member States, many of which have banned exports of medical supplies or requisitioned stocks of similar goods, such as France.
"Regardless of the fact that this market is presently installed in Asia... we need a certain self-sufficiency, or at least a pillar of our own manufacturing" in Germany or elsewhere in the European Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin.
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