According to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), fraudsters have offered the governments of 12 EU member states, including Finland, a total of 1 billion non-existent COVID -19 vaccine doses worth 14 billion euros.
Ville Itälä, the head of OLAF, told Yle that criminals outside the EU are most likely responsible for the scams, none of which have proved successful due to the intervention of authorities. The hoaxes have been linked to organised crime syndicates as well as independent fraudsters.
The scammers pose as intermediaries or middle men and make an offer which is designed to appear authentic, but do not actually provide the vaccine doses. They withhold delivery details and ask for advance payments.
The matter is currently under investigation in Finland and Itälä is unable to provide details regarding who offered to purchase the sham vaccines.
OLAF first became aware of the phenomenon when numerous EU countries that had been approached with the fraudulent vaccine offers contacted the European Commission.
While the agency has not yet encountered any counterfeit vaccines being sold on the market, Itälä believes it’s only a matter of time before fraudsters turn to this avenue.