Police in Dubai seized more than 400,000 counterfeit face masks in 2020 as opportunistic fraudsters sought to cash in on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Officers said the public health crisis prompted a new wave of crime, as offenders pinpointed an unprecedented demand for protective wear.
Three Asian men were arrested after storing the huge haul of masks, along with 25,000 gloves, at three villas in the emirate to be sold on WhatsApp.
“This was a new criminal trend brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic which Dubai police was capable of detecting and foiling,” said Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jallaf, director of the Criminal Investigation Department at Dubai Police.
“The suspects took advantage of people’s fear and need for medical protective gears during the outbreak.”
Col Omar bin Hamad, director of the force's department of anti-economic crimes, said police made 320 arrests and investigated 250 counterfeit cases involving Dh2.6 billion of fake goods during the year.
Officers seized 29,187 fake watches, falsely bearing the names of brands such as Cartier, Gucci and Rolex, valued at more than Dh1.2 billion.
Police worked in tandem with Dubai's Department of Economic Development to thwart offenders and take fake goods off the streets.
“Despite the exceptional times during the pandemic, we dealt with hundreds of reports,” said Col Bin Hamad.
“Dubai Police and the Dubai Economic Department will fight all efforts directed at promoting fake products so that Dubai remains a safe investment environment for all companies that spend billions on their industry.”
Counterfeit products worth more than Dh2.5 billion in a total of 297 cases were confiscated in 2019.
These included fake women’s bags, cosmetics, vehicle spare parts and electronics sold under the guise of popular global brands such as Apple, Toyota and Louis Vuitton.
Inspection campaigns, the use of new technology and improved intelligence are being utilised to combat criminals.