Austrian customs officials have arrested a Turkish bus driver after he was found to be smuggling 21,000 unlicensed face masks into the country.
The seizure of the masks comes as it was revealed that all non-essential operations were put under risk of being cancelled or postponed in the country because of the shortage of sterilised facemasks.
The customs officials said that the bus driver was hoping to profit from the panic over the coronavirus by selling the uncertified facemasks that may have not been any use to members of the public.
Police said they decided to stop the bus after it came up in a database as belonging to a bus company that in the past has been linked with smuggling. The stop was made as the bus was travelling near the Austrian capital Vienna.
The bus driver, who was not named but was described as being aged between 40 and 50, together with three passengers were reportedly travelling to Germany when they were stopped at the weekend.
Details of the seizure revealed by the Austrian Finance Ministry that said they also seized 25 kilogrammes (55 lbs) of meat, 1,200 cigarettes and various other undeclared items.
The group were arrested for not declaring the goods saving duty of around 4,000 EUR (3,487 GBP) and they are now investigating the circumstances under which the masks were obtained.
They noted that they had no CE certification confirming they met met EU standards or any evidence that these were medically hygienic products.
They said the only person that was likely to benefit from the “service” providing the masks was the person that was selling them.
Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel warned: “The health of our citizens is our top priority especially in the current circumstances.”
He added: “The customs officers are active in removing unsafe smuggled products from circulation.”
He also said: “We will not allow fraudsters to take advantage of the current situation.”
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