Man busted for stealing, selling about 2 million coronavirus face masks

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A Spanish businessman ripped off about 2 million face masks from a warehouse — and sold all but 100 to neighboring Portugal before he was busted, according to new reports.

The suspect, identified only as the director of a well-known local real estate firm, swiped the masks and other protective equipment including surgical gloves back in February from a locked warehouse in the city of Santiago de Compostela — where a medical supplies company that had gone into liquidation was storing them, local police said, according to Metro UK.

The suspected thief then sold the items to contacts in Portugal, police said. Portuguese authorities helped investigators crack the case.

Meanwhile, the Spanish government was forced to buy face masks from China in an emergency purchase as the virus infected its citizens, according to the report.

the warehouse of a company where sanitary equipment was stolen in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
The warehouse of a company where sanitary equipment was stolen in Santiago de Compostela, SpainXUNTA DE GALICIA/AFP via Getty Images

Alfonso Rueda, vice president of the Xunta de Galicia regional government, visited the theft site Monday and found that only about 100 of the 2 million face masks stored there were left untouched.

“The police received a tip-off that there could have been valuable health equipment here which would have been so necessary in the fight against COVID-19,” he said, according to Metro. “It had been cleaned out by the time they arrived. We calculate 2 million face masks have been stolen. Only the boxes are left.”

SPAIN-HEALTH-VIRUS
Galician regional vice president Alfonso Rueda (left) visiting the warehouse of a company where sanitary equipment was stolen in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

XUNTA DE GALICIA/AFP via Getty Images

Businessman detained accused of stealing two million sanitary masks
The warehouse of a company where sanitary equipment was stolen in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

EPA

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“There are also empty boxes which contained surgical gloves but we don’t know at this stage exactly how many are missing,” Rueda added.

The alleged thief deliberately selected items he knew would have high resale value, the official said.

The man was identified and arrested by authorities, and has already made an initial court appearance, according to Rueda.

Court sources confirmed he was released on bail during a closed court hearing, Metro reported. The judicial investigation is still underway.

A total of 146,690 coronavirus cases have been reported in Spain — second only to the US, with the highest number of infections, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics. A total of 14,555 people have died of the virus in the country, the second-highest death toll next to Italy.

Filed under 4/8/20