EU governments warned of Covid-19 vaccine fraud

18 Feb 21

Governments need to be on their guard against fraudulent offers of Covid-19 vaccines, the EU’s fraud watchdog has warned amid its inquiry into the illicit trade of pandemic-related goods.

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Fraud

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With the world’s top financial institutions all listing a successful vaccination rollout as a key part of the economic recovery from the pandemic, many officials are desperate to ensure their country is not left behind.

The European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf) said criminals are looking to take advantage of this.

Offers of vaccines are “very often” fake, according to Olaf – with fraudsters sometimes offering large quantities only deliver a sample in order to receive an advance payment, sometimes sending shipments of counterfeits, and sometimes falsely claiming they represent legitimate businesses.

“All of these claims have one thing in common: they are false,” said Ville Itälä, director-general of Olaf.

“They are hoaxes organised to defraud national authorities looking to step up the pace of vaccination to keep their citizens safe. They must be stopped as quickly as possible.”

In March 2020, Olaf opened an official inquiry into the illicit trade of face masks, medical equipment, disinfectants, sanitisers, medicines and test kits linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has now added vaccines to its investigations.

“We will now actively share information we receive about these attempted frauds with our trusted partners in the EU, in the member states and across the world,” said Itälä.

“We will be working together with them to thwart these scams and to help enforcement services determine the true identity of the individuals and companies behind these attempts, which put human health and public finances at risk at a time of great hardship.”

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