More than 6 million surgical masks procured by the Hong Kong government for HK$15 million, with some already delivered to departments, have been found to be fake. The batches bought by the Government Logistics Department (GLD) in March were labelled under Medicom, a global supplier of medical protective equipment. But customs officers said the fake trademark name was used to mislead the public. About half of the 6.7 million masks have already been distributed to 11 government departments. Medicom Asia, meanwhile, said it had not supplied masks to the GLD since early this year. Speaking to the press on Thursday, head of trade control at customs, Mak Yuk-kam, said two men and two women were arrested over violation of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. They were the boss of an import firm and its director, as well as two employees of another company that supplied the masks to the GLD. The four had been released on bail, pending further investigation. Mak said some of the masks were distributed to departments including that of social welfare, food and environmental hygiene, as well as the disciplinary services. It was not immediately known whether the masks were being used. “The GLD has asked the departments not to use the masks and has arranged to have the products returned,” Mak said, adding: “As far as we know, the GLD is initiating action to recover from the supplier concerned all losses and damages.” The customs investigation followed a complaint last month by a surgical mask agent who said the government was receiving items with fake labels. The packaging of the product suggested the masks were produced in Medicom’s mainland plants, but the firm had denied this, Mak said. While the masks in question passed local safety tests, the material used for the nose pin was inferior and the colour of the outer layer was lighter than the authentic version. Mak also said spot checks by customs did not find such masks being sold on the market. He would not say if the two firms involved were among the regular suppliers of products to the government. Customs officials arrest four persons for selling masks with dangerous bacterial count Mak said an investigation was still under way and he would not rule out more arrests. The GLD, which is responsible for procurement for government bureaus and departments, said in a statement on Thursday that it had paid HK$15.2 million for the masks. The items were secured in March and delivered in batches. It also said a police report was made as the supplier was suspected to have submitted forged documents. Customs has launched a citywide operation code-named “Guardian” since January to crack down on retail shops and pharmacies that sell substandard surgical masks and other medical items. So far, more than 35,000 inspections at retail spots have been conducted. Investigations have been launched into 13 cases of suspected violations of the trade descriptions law and 11 cases of suspected violations of the consumer goods safety law. Sixty-one people have been arrested so far and some 124,000 masks, 306 bottles of disinfectant alcohol, and 23 bottles of normal saline solution have been seized. Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, anyone who supplies goods with a false trade description or a forged trademark during trade or business is liable for a maximum fine of HK$500,000 (US$65,000) and five years’ imprisonment.