Spanish businessman was arrested recently after he was caught selling two million coronavirus face masks that he had stolen from a local warehouse.
The trader, Spanish media say, was nabbed selling the products in the neighbouring Portugal. He had only 100 more to sell to clear the stock.
The suspect, identified only as the director of a well-known local real estate firm, stole the masks and other protective equipment including surgical gloves in February 2020 from a locked warehouse in the city of Santiago de Compostela.
A medical supplies company that had gone into liquidation was storing the equipment, Metro UK quotes police as having said.
The suspected thief then sold the items to contacts in Portugal, police said. Portuguese authorities helped investigators unravel the case.
Alfonso Rueda, vice president of the Xunta de Galicia regional government, visited the theft site Monday, April 6 and found that only about 100 of the two 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.”
“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 suspect 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. The New York Post reports that court sources confirmed the suspect was released on bail during a closed court hearing. The judicial investigation is still underway.
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.
With 152,446 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, April 8, Spain is the second most-affected country in the world after the US which has registered 435, 160 confirmed infections.
Spain has recorded 15, 238 coronavirus-related deaths, with 446 confirmed today (April 9) alone. A total of 52, 165 patients in the European nation have since recovered from the disease.