French police break up medical smuggling networks, seize 440,000 face masks
Police in France have dismantled smuggling networks trying to take advantage of a rush to buy medical supplies – including face masks – to tackle the coronavirus epidemic. By the end of April, police had dismantled a number of such smuggling networks, stopped scams and attempted scams to the value of more than €30 million ($32 million), and seized 438,000 masks, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Friday.
In addition, 5.7 million masks ostensibly ordered on the internet have been the subject of a scam or attempted scam, he said. “If this crisis has often shown the best of ourselves and enabled exceptional acts of solidarity, it has also been an opportunity, unfortunately, for some to try to take advantage of the situation, to exploit fear and the disease,” Castaner noted.
The government has been criticized by doctors and opposition politicians for being indecisive on whether to require masks to be worn in public, and for procuring too few of them, Reuters reports.
Castaner said 10 million washable masks had been given to transport operators all over France, including 4.4 million in the Ile-de-France region around Paris, to be distributed to travelers free of charge from Monday.