The Ministry of Economic Affairs yesterday announced that imported masks would have to be approved by the ministry after an investigation revealed another case of alleged fraud.
The investigation had revealed that Haw Ping Co (豪品國際實業), based in Yuanlin (員林), Changhua County, had imported 7.2 million industrial-grade masks from China and sold them as medical-grade masks made in Taiwan, the ministry said.
It was the nation’s second case of fraud after New Taipei City-based Carry Hi-tech Co (加利科技) was found to have supplied the government’s mask rationing system with industrial-grade masks made in China.
Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs via CNA
While Haw Ping is also a member of the mask “national team,” Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said that the investigation had showed that the Chinese masks were not sold through the government’s rationing system.
“We stepped up our investigations after the Carry Hi-tech case and found that Haw Ping was importing an unusual number of masks,” Wang told reporters at a news conference in Taipei.
“After visiting retailers, we found that Haw Ping was selling three-dimensional face masks that it does not have the equipment to make in Taiwan,” she said.
Of the 7.2 million industrial-grade masks the company imported from China, about 3 million remain in its warehouses, meaning 4 million have likely been sold, she said.
The number of masks imported from China has increased and last month alone 80 million masks were imported to Taiwan, mostly industrial-grade masks made in China, Wang said.
The ministry was not proposing banning the import of all industrial-grade masks from China over concerns it would inconvenience those who want them for legitimate uses, but starting on Wednesday next week, all imports of masks would have to be preapproved by the ministry, she said.
The ministry would track imported masks to ensure they are properly labeled at the point of sale, she added.
“This way we can control how many are coming in and we can demand weekly updates from the businesses of where they are going. We need to ensure Chinese masks are not being sold as masks made in Taiwan and that industrial-grade masks are not being sold as medical-grade masks,” Wang said.
She urged businesses and consumers not to buy loose masks not in packaging.
“Stay away from improperly packaged masks because you do not know where they came from,” she said.
The Bureau of Foreign Trade is to announce the details of obtaining import approval for masks on Monday next week and all imports would have to be approved starting the following Wednesday, the ministry said.
As an additional measure of security, all medical-grade masks made in Taiwan from Thursday next week must carry the “Made in Taiwan” and “MD” stamps to prove their provenance, it said.
The government began requisitioning all domestically produced medical-grade masks on Jan. 31 and implemented a rationing program on Feb. 6.
While consumers can now buy unlimited numbers of masks on the open market, the option of buying nine masks every 14 days at a set price remains for those who have a National Health Insurance card.
Additional reporting by CNA
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