A division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) found that more than 50% of fraudulent coronavirus supplies brought into the U.S. have come from China, ABC News reported Tuesday.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said that 56% of seizures involving counterfeit goods intercepted since the launch of “Operation Stolen Promise” 100 days ago have come from China or Hong Kong, ABC News reported.
“We have a list of 39 other countries where these prohibited, fraudulent or counterfeit goods have entered,” Steve Francis, head of HSI’s National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center said in a call according to ABC.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and HSI announced the initiative to combat coronavirus related fraud after criminal organizations historically engaged in financial scams began to pivot to exploiting the pandemic for illegal financial gains.
“As you can imagine, it’s just kind of a daunting task dealing with so many different countries and organizations or bad actors that are exploiting this pandemic,” Francis said.
While 56% of seizures in the last few months have been of counterfeit items from China, 85% of all counterfeit goods over the past 5 years have originated in China. In the last few months, more than 911 seizures of goods have been made. Fraudulent coronavirus supplies included masks, prohibited medications and treatments,, and other personal protective equipment.
“We’re also seeing this type of fraud where the criminals are pivoting to meet the new needs and demands,” Francis added, adding that when hydroxychloroquine was touted as a potential cure, HSI and Customs and Border protection saw an increase in seizures, according to ABC.
DHS vowed to crackdown on counterfeit merchandise on e-commerce platforms in January after a report detailing the prevalence of such products. A week later, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at stopping the online sales of counterfeit products from abroad to American consumers, according to CNBC.
“The epicenter, ground zero, of the manufactured counterfeit goods is China,” Bob Barchiesi, president of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, said earlier in 2020 according to CNBC. Fake goods make up nearly 3.3% of all global trade and were worth $509 billion in 2016.
In the wake of the pandemic, several countries scrambled to fill coronavirus supply shortages by using supplies sent from China. Many of those countries, including Spain, the Czech Republic, and Britain have complained about the quality of the products, which included faulty antigen or antibody tests and personal protective equipment. (RELATED: The UK’s 3.5 Million Chinese-Made Coronavirus Antibody Tests ‘Not Good Enough’ For Use)