A group of opportunists spent weeks buying 100,000 medical masks at pharmacies in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Seeing the demand for medical masks increasing as the coronavirus spread around the world, they hoped to resell them and make quick profits.
Last week, they published an online ad offer to sell the masks – which cost about $ 38,000 to buy – with a significant margin. They soon received a response and made an appointment and a place to strike a deal with their prospective buyers.
The deal turned out to be more than they expected.
A group of three men, wearing a uniform similar to that of the Ukrainian State Security Service, came to buy the masks. But these men were not agents of the state – they were in fact thieves dressed to rob salesmen. The men threatened the vendors with "pistol guns" and forced them to lie on the floor. Then they loaded the boxes of medical masks into the cars and fled in different directions.
The assault on the medical mask, which took place on Saturday, was announced Tuesday by Directorate of the National Police of Kiev, Ukraine and the Kiev Prosecutor's Office. These police bodies said three suspects were arrested. Some of the details about the robbery were provided exclusively to BuzzFeed News by the police.
The robbery targets notified the authorities and provided details, including text messages, that led to the arrests.
AN video The bust published by the police shows policemen inspecting dozens of stacked cardboard boxes filled with blue medical masks and two of the suspects handcuffed.
Thieves face 10 years in prison and confiscation of personal property if convicted of armed robbery.
While their actions may be morally dubious in a time of global pandemic, the group of opportunists who bought medical supplies face no charges.
Ukraine has only 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19, seven of which were confirmed by the Ukrainian Ministry of Health's Public Health Center on Tuesday, but took extraordinary measures to try to prevent an outbreak like that of war-torn countries. virus. Its president ordered quarantine measures across the country, including a ban on international and domestic travel and the export of medical equipment, until at least 1 June.
As the new coronavirus sweeps the world and demand for medical supplies grows, some people are taking the chance to profit from it – and perhaps fueling the coronavirus outbreak in the process.
Perhaps the best example of price accumulation and gouging in the U.S., two brothers in Tennessee stocked 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer they expected to resell on Amazon at $ 70 a bottle. Although they managed to sell some of their goods at reduced prices, they were prevented by the platform from selling most of it.
The brothers, featured in a New York Times article on Saturday, received much criticism from a frustrated audience on empty store shelves. On Sunday, the men were finally forced to donate their products. Tennessee, which declared a state of emergency last Thursday, triggering a law against price cuts, is still investigating the brothers' case, CBS News reported.
According to the New York Times, the offices of the California Attorney General, Washington and New York are investigating coronavirus-related price manipulation.
Health experts say accumulating medical supplies increases the risk of spreading the coronavirus farther and faster.
Volodymyr Kurpita, former head of the Ukrainian Public Health Center, told BuzzFeed News by phone from Kiev that stocking supplies like masks can lead to shortages, which "puts people fighting the coronavirus" – doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health professionals who come into frequent contact with people – "at increased risk".
"You are also taking more risks because you are visiting stores and pharmacies and places elsewhere and you are contacting people" who may not have a mask or use hand sanitizer because of the shortage, added Kurpita.
Stressing the danger of this shortage, one of New York's leading cancer clinics with enough masks for about a week saw at least three patients and five staff members diagnosed with COVID-19, according to internal emails and a transcript of a team meeting obtained by BuzzFeed News.
Andriy Kryshchenko, deputy chief of the National Police of Ukraine, suggested in a press release on Tuesday that the incident in his country should serve as a warning to both accumulators of medical supplies and criminals.
"Taking advantage of the situation, the attackers decided to profit from the demand for essential goods," said Kryshchenko. "In the future, his accomplices planned to resell the medical masks, but his illegal actions won only a prison sentence."