Pharmacist and surveyor arrested over false coronavirus testing kit claims

15 April 2020, 10:03

NCA officers raid a property
NCA officers raid a property. Picture: NCA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Two men have been arrested following an investigation by the National Crime Agency on suspicion of illegally selling coronavirus testing kits.

Officers from the NCA arrested a 46-year-old pharmacist from Croydon, south London under the Fraud Act 2006 after making false and misleading claims about the capability of coronavirus tests.

The NCA said the investigation was part of a "proactive response against criminals trying to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic."

As part of the investigation, the law enforcement agency NCA also took down a website trying to fool victims into buying suspected non-existent personal protective equipment (PPE) through phishing emails.

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Officers seized £20,000 in cash and searched two properties and a car, before releasing him on bail.

The use of coronavirus tests at home is not currently advised by Public Health England.

There are no tests for home use that are CE marked, a certification that shows compliance with European safety standards, and it is illegal to sell them.

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As part of a separate investigation officers also arrested a 39-year-old surveyor from Uxbridge, west London, was stopped while driving his car.

When his vehicle was searched officers found 250 Covid-19 testing kits, he was arrested under the Fraud Act 2006 after making false and misleading claims about the capability of the tests.

He told investigators he was planning on selling the kits to construction workers.

Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigations, said: “Criminals capitalise on fear and anxiety and they will exploit any opportunity, no matter how awful, to line their pockets.

“Illegally selling testing kits completely undermines the nation’s collective response to the pandemic and actually endangers lives.

“Anyone thinking of trying to profit in this way should take note of these arrests and that bringing these offenders to justice and ceasing their activities is a key priority across law enforcement.”

Tariq Sarwar, Head of Operations for Enforcement at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said: “We are committed to working together with law enforcement to protect public health and prevent unsafe medicines and medical devices getting to the public.

“The use of products for the diagnosis of coronavirus infection in community settings, such as pharmacies, for home use, is not at present advised by Public Health England.

“There are no CE marked tests for home use, and it is illegal to supply such products.

“The safety, performance or quality of the products cannot be guaranteed and this poses a health risk.

“We continue to encourage the public, and healthcare professionals, that if you spot any posts claiming to sell these types of products, these can be reported to us via our Yellow Card Scheme.

“Always make sure you are buying your medicines from a registered pharmacy or website and your medical devices from reputable retailers.”