Indonesia busts Malaysians for virus-mask smuggling

MEDAN, Indonesia – Indonesia has detained two Malaysians for allegedly trying to smuggle some 12,000 virus face masks back to their home country, police said Thursday, March 12.

Officials at the international airport in Sumatra's Medan city became suspicious and searched the pair's bags as they were about to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday evening, authorities said.

They were detained on suspicion of hoarding, police said, and when questioned the 44-and 42-year-old suspects claimed they were planning to distribute the masks to children in neighboring Malaysia to guard against coronavirus infections.

The masks were confiscated and the suspects would be deported without any criminal charges, they added.

"We didn't find any criminal conduct after questioning them so they will be sent back," said police spokesman Tatan Dirsan Atmaja.

Indonesia launched a crackdown on mask hoarding after its first confirmed coronavirus infection this month sparked panic buying and sent prices for prevention products skyrocketing.

Police this week seized some 1.9 million face masks from a warehouse near its second-biggest city Surabaya. – Rappler.com