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15 July, 2020
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Fraudulent scheme ‘unmasked’ by police

Two suspects detained after thousands of free government masks end up for sale


Two suspects are in custody in connection with face mask reseller fraud in the Republic of Cyprus, after state authorities discovered free supplies with government barcodes being sold in local pharmacies.

Police arrested a 27-year-old local male and his 55-year-old father-in-law after health officials discovered that masks with a uniquely identifiable barcode procured from China by the government of the Republic of Cyprus were being sold at a Nicosia pharmacy.

Investigators believe the masks in question came from a batch back in April, when the Cypriot government made 60,000 face masks available free of charge for workers on the front lines, giving additional quantities to different professional associations for distribution amongst their members.

Police fear they may have a case in their hands that is potentially much larger, after additional masks with the same barcode were found in one of the suspects' residence

Police investigators say the 27-year-old suspect allegedly supplied a pharmaceutical company in Limassol last week with 16,000 face masks which were being sold at 37 cents a piece, a total worth of €5920. The government reportedly paid 53 cents a piece, according to local media.

Police fear they may have a case in their hands that is potentially much larger, with CID Limassol director Ioannis Soteriades saying additional masks with the same barcode were found in the residence of the son-in-law.

Additional reports said the father-in-law, who is the president of the Cyprus Council of Hairdressers and Barbers Registrar, was detained during the course of the investigation. Both suspects were said to be cooperating with police.

The Cyprus Council of Hairdressers and Barbers Registrar is an exclusive body operating under the auspices of the Commerce Ministry and granting professional permits to barbers and hairdressers.

The association was on the list of recipients for free masks according to previous statements by the health ministry, while barbershops and hair salons are expected to re-open later this week.

Soteriades said the two suspects were detained and remanded in custody for eight days on multiple charges including felony conspiracy, theft, fraud, illegal gains, and violation of public health laws.

Cyprus  |  public health  |  medical  |  facemask  |  police  |  barbershop  |  hair salon  |  Nicosia  |  Limassol  |  pharmaceutical  |  drug company  |  China

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