Face masks Hong Kong
Seized counterfeit face masks are shown during a press conference with examples of a real (L) and fake (R) mask on a monitor, as Divisional Commander (Intellectual Property General Investigation) Jacky Tsang looks on, at the Customs Headquarters Building in Hong Kong on October 30, 2020, two days after 100,000 suspected counterfeit face masks with an estimated market value of about three million HKD were seized by Hong Kong Customs during a special operation. Image Credit: AFP

Hong Kong: Customs agents in the southern Chinese city of Hong Kong have seized 100,000 counterfeit face masks and arrested one person in what the government called the largest operation of its kind on record.

The masks were set to be shipped overseas and had a market value of almost $400,000, the government's Information Services Department reported Friday.

The masks were seized at a storehouse in Hong Kong on Wednesday after agents received a tip-off, the department said, leading to a further raid on a trading company where a 71-year-old manager was arrested. "Initial investigations revealed that unscrupulous merchants intended to transship the batch of masks overseas for sale and profit. Customs is looking into the source of the face masks involved in the case. Samples have also been sent to a laboratory for safety testing,'' the department said in a news release.

Customs agents launched an operation codenamed "Guardian" across the city in late January involving spot checks on common protective equipment such as masks, resulting in 80 arrests and the seizure of nearly 6 million face masks, along with other items, the department said.

Mainland China is a major source of personal protective equipment such as masks and bodysuits, some of which have been found to be counterfeit or of inferior quality.