Confidence tricksters making a killing from virus outbreak

Lu Feiran
While people work to control the spread of the coronavirus, swindlers and sham product dealers are not missing the opportunity to make a fast buck. 
Lu Feiran

While people from all walks of life are trying to control the spread of the current novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic, swindlers and sham product dealers are not at a loose end. Local procurators said on Sunday that 46 related cases have been dealt for the past a few weeks.

People desperate to buy masks have become targets of swindlers, and 13 such cases have been reported in the city, according to the Shanghai People's Procuratorate.

In one case, a man named Yan, who lived in Minhang District, claimed that he could buy masks overseas and transport them back to China by private jet. People eager to donate masks to epidemic affected areas paid deposits of more than 170,000 yuan (US$25,000) but never received a thing.

The police’s found that Yan spent most of the deposit not on masks but on jewelry and cosmetics. He was apprehended this week and handed over to the procuratorate.

Meanwhile, 57 people have been arrested for producing and selling fake or shoddy protective equipment, such as masks and disinfectants.

Police reported that they have seized at least 30,000 shoddy masks and 13 tons of unqualified disinfectant from local market. Some dealers purchased low-quality masks from workshops at a price of 0.2 yuan each, and sold them at 1.5 yuan.

“When trying the cases, our standard is to test if the products function well,” said Gong Peihua, deputy chief procurator. “We will continue cooperating with local market and medicine supervisors on such cases.”

In addition, the procuratorate reported 10 cases, involving 11 people abusing or assaulting police officers or epidemic control staff.

Local law affairs have partly been dealt online since late last month. Residents who need to deal with births, deaths, nationality, educational background and taxes can visit the city government website.

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