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Indonesia busts Malaysian coronavirus mask smuggling ring Open in fullscreen

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Indonesia busts Malaysian coronavirus mask smuggling ring

The suspects were detained on suspicion of hoarding. [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 March, 2020

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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.

Indonesia has arrested two Malaysians for allegedly attempting to smuggle more than 12,000 facemasks back to their home country to guard against coronavirus infections.

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 neighbouring Malaysia to guard against coronavirus infections.

The masks were confiscated, and the suspects would be deported today 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 facemasks from a warehouse near its second-biggest city Surabaya.

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