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French police intercepted 140,000 coronavirus face masks before the highly sought-after medical supply could be turned for profit on the black market, according to reports Sunday.
Officers arrested two men unloading the merchandise, made up of FFP2 masks and surgical masks, from a truck in a suburban neighborhood outside of St. Denis, near Paris, French daily Le Parisian reported.
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The suspected seller, a man in his 60s, told police he was a businessman and bought the masks for $0.54 each in the Netherlands, according to the paper. The second suspect, a 46-year-old man, was reportedly buying some masks to sell for profit at retail.
While it was unclear how much the masks were being sold for, authorities believed that at least some of the masks were to be sold to construction workers at marked up prices, a police source told Agence-France Presse.
EUROPEAN POLICE FOIL CORONAVIRUS SCAM AFTER GERMANY DUPED OUT OF 10M MASKS
Last month, France requisitioned all face masks last month to shore up its dwindling supply for medical workers. The price of masks in France had tripled before the requisition, the BBC reported.
Even with the government commandeering the nation’s mask supply, authorities made high-profile seizures north of Paris last month, including 32,500 masks from a warehouse in Saint-Ouen and an additional 28,800 masks from a store in Aubervilliers.
Countries around the world have been racing to acquire face masks and other medical gear in short supply for health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. The surge in demand has led to some scams in the U.S. and abroad as crooks look to capitalize on the pandemic
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The COVID-19 virus has sickened at least 162,220 people in France, killing 22,856 as of Monday.
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