The public prosecution department has called for jail terms of three and four years for two men who are suspected of trying to defraud ‘a foreign government institution’ by claiming to be able to deliver 11 million face masks for €4.4m.
‘These suspects abused the shortage, the pressure and the wish to protect healthcare workers,’ the public prosecution department said in a statement. ‘We take this very seriously indeed.’
The department did not say which foreign country was involved, but the case appears to be one which dates back to mid March, when German health authorities contracted two sales companies in Zurich and Hamburg to procure masks.
According to Europol at the time, the firms first got in touch with what appeared to be a legitimate website in Spain. When that delivery ‘fell through’ the buyers were referred to a ‘trusted’ dealer in Ireland who put them in touch with a Dutch firm.
Just before the delivery date, the buyers were informed that the funds had not been received and that an emergency transfer of €880,000 straight to the Dutch supplier was required to secure the merchandise. The buyers sent the wire transfer but the masks never arrived.
When the buyers realised they had been duped, they immediately contacted their bank in Germany, setting off an international race to intercept the funds and follow the money trail.
Dutch finance ministry investors tracked down the €880,000 which had been paid to the Dutch firm, and which is owned by one of the two men facing jail terms, the public prosecution department said.
Some of the money had been taken out as cash, but the rest had already been moved on to foreign bank accounts. The company also faces a fine of €250,000.
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