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Man arrested for allegedly selling more than 500 fake coronavirus testing kits

By Thomas Parkes | Birmingham | Coronavirus | Published:

A Birmingham man has been arrested on suspicion of selling more than 500 fake coronavirus testing kits across the UK and the USA.

Suspected fake coronavirus testing kits have been seized in Birmingham after a crackdown on the crime. Photo: National Crime Agency

The 38-year-old, who lives in the Jewellery Quarter, was taken into custody for alleged offences under the Fraud Act 2006.

It comes after a crackdown by the National Crime Agency (NCA) on criminals trying to exploit the pandemic.

Matt Horne, deputy director of investigations for the agency, said: "Anyone thinking of trying to profit from the public’s fears about the pandemic should take note of this arrest.

"Bringing offenders to justice and ceasing their activities is a key priority across law enforcement. The NCA will target criminals who pose a risk to our collective effort to tackle the pandemic.

"We are investigating a number of reports on the sale of counterfeit products relating to Covid-19, and will continue to work with partners to protect the public."

Fake coronavirus testing kits have been seized in Birmingham after a crackdown on the crime. Photo: National Crime Agency

Small quantities of what is believed to be cocaine and heroin have also been seized along with business records, which are set to be examined.

The products were allegedly sold on the "dark" web, police experts have said.

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Andy Morling, head of enforcement at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said: "We work closely with the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement agencies to protect public health and prevent unlicensed medicines and non-compliant medical devices getting into circulation.

"No Covid-19 antibody self-testing kits have received CE mark status and there are no such testing kits available in the UK for home use. It is also illegal to supply these self-test kits for use by members of the public in the UK.

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"Products that have not been tested to ensure they meet standards of safety, performance and quality cannot be guaranteed and this poses a risk to individuals’ health.

"We urge the public and healthcare professionals to report to us via our Yellow Card Scheme any website or social media post offering to sell these types of products.

"Always make sure you are buying your medicines from a registered pharmacy or website and your medical devices from reputable retailers."

Another property was searched in Edgbaston, Birmingham, where suspected fake Covid-19 testing kits were found.

A 36-year-old is being sought in connection with selling the items, with officers urging the person to come forward.

James Mancuso, from Homeland Security Investigations, said: "We commend our National Crime Agency partners for their swift response during this global crisis.

"Homeland Security Investigations remains committed to our international partners in maintaining public safety, and holding persons attempting to profit in these uncertain times, accountable for their criminal and dangerous acts.

"Despite widespread illness and deaths caused by Covid-19, individuals and organisations operating around the globe are actively seeking to exploit and profit from the pandemic.

"From financial fraud schemes targeting vulnerable populations, to the importation of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to websites defrauding consumers, these illicit activities compromise legitimate trade and financial systems, threaten the integrity of international borders, and endanger the safety and security of the public.

"Utilising its unique and expansive authorities, strategic footprint and partnerships worldwide, and robust cyber capabilities, HSI is conducting Operation Stolen Promise to protect the public from the increasing and evolving threat posed by Covid-19-related fraud and criminal activity."

People can report fraudulent activity anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org

Counter fraud advice is available online, including from Scamsmart, CIFAS, TakeFive, Citizens Advice, Trading Standards and the National Cyber Security Centre.

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Trainee Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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