JAKARTA: Indonesian police have arrested three local members of an international cybercrime syndicate over an alleged $4.2 million fraud on an Italian company involving the supply of medical equipment, including ventilators for coronavirus patients.
The arrests were made after the syndicate intercepted emails between Althea Italia S.p.a, an Italian health service provider, and a Chinese company, Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics.
The medical equipment was due to be supplied as part of an agreement between the two firms signed in late March this year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy.
However, according to police, on May 6, the three suspects sent an email to Althea Italy posing as the Chinese company’s European manager, informing the Italian firm of a change in bank account details for the transfer payment for the ventilators and monitors.
Comm. Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo, chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, told a press conference on Monday that those arrested are from North Sumatra, West Java and Banten provinces, but declined to provide any other details.
Police said that the suspects allegedly instructed Althea to transfer the money to the account of a fictitious company named CV Shenzhen Mindray Bio Medical Electronics Co. Ltd, at Bank Syariah Mandiri, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s state lender Bank Mandiri.
Althea filed a complaint with Interpol in Rome after it failed to receive the medical equipment on time.
Prabowo said that after being notified of the fraud, police worked with Indonesia’s Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center to trace the three transactions to the Bank Syariah Mandiri account, which led to the arrests of the culprits.
“The three suspects planned and executed the scheme by establishing the fictitious company and opening the Bank Syariah Mandiri account used to dupe the victim. Police seized 56.8 billion rupiah ($3.8 million) from the culprits,” Prabowo said.
However, the suspected mastermind of the crime, allegedly a Nigerian, is still at large, he said.
In addition to the seized money, an SUV, a motorcycle, and documents related to land and property bought using the stolen money were also shown during the press conference.
With the number of coronavirus cases rising across the world, a surge is expected in demand for ventilators to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
The Ventilators Market Global Report 2020, released by Market Study Report in April this year, predicted the global market for the devices would grow from $4.68 billion in 2019 to $12.1 billion this year.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Health Ministry issued production licenses for five ventilator prototypes developed by Indonesian universities and research agencies in mid-August this year.
Indonesia has 8,413 ventilators in 2,867 hospitals across the archipelago, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto told a hearing at the House of Representatives on April 2, while work is underway to produce locally made ventilators to meet the high demand.
As of Tuesday, there were 200,035 confirmed cases in the country, with 8,230 deaths and 142,958 recoveries, according to data from the government’s COVID-19 response team.