15 indicted for alleged production, sale of counterfeit masks

Tainan, Fifteen people connected to two companies were indicted Thursday in Tainan for alleged collusion in the production and sale of face masks labeled as made by a domestic manufacturer requisitioned by the government to produce masks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 1.413 million masks falsely labeled as having been produced by Tainan-based Formosa Energy Carbon Co., Ltd., Taiwan (TWEC) have been sold, with approximately NT$19.17 million (US$674,829) in illegal gains reaped in the process, Tainan District Prosecutors Office said Thursday.

TWEC is a member of the "national team" of mask manufacturers the government established last year to secure supply of the vital item and combat the spread of COVID-19.

The case can be traced back to August 2020 when the head of Taiwan Global Investment Advisors Co., Ltd., identified only by his surname Lin (?), bought three face mask making machines and related raw materials from China and transported them to TWEC's factory in Yongkang District, according to prosecutors.

Lin and his company's chief operating officer, a woman surnamed Hu (?), were provided with the location by the owner of TWEC, a man surnamed Liu (, to learn how to make face masks from the factory.

Lin and Hu then moved the machines and related raw materials to an underground factory in Tainan's Guiren District in September last year.

The face masks produced by the underground plant were placed in the same blue boxes used by TWEC to boost sales.

Liu sold his company's blue paper boxes to Lin for NT$15 each.

The prosecutors office said that 100-150 cartons, each able to hold 480 paper boxes, were sold to Lin, while a marketing division head at TWEC surnamed Chen was responsible for finding buyers.

Meanwhile, two former employees of the company were hired by Lin to calibrate the machines and nine workers were hired to pack the face masks and label them as legally made medical-grade face masks.

The Tainan City Public Health Bureau conducted an inspection of the underground factory about two weeks after it came online, prompting Lin to relocate the plant to Rende District.

The Rende plant continued to make counterfeit medical-grade face masks printed with the the acronym "MD" (medical device) after the government ordered that medical-grade face masks made by the national face mask team must carry those imprints, according to prosecutors.

However, after TWEC's blue paper boxes were no longer provided from late October 2020, Lin and his employees started using stickers with the marks "MD" and "CNS14774," to pass the masks off as made by TWEC.

"CNS14774" indicates that the product has been approved for medical use and is in compliance with national standards.

The prosecutors office on Thursday indicted the 15 individuals involved in the case for violations of the Criminal Code and the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act.

Lin, Liu and Chen are believed to be the masterminds behind the scheme and severe punishments will be sought to make an example of them, prosecutors said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel