A London-based pharmacist has been arrested on suspicion of illegally selling Covid-19 testing kits, the National Crime Agency has said.

A 46-year-old pharmacist from Croydon, South London, was arrested on Saturday after selling coronavirus tests to the public, making ‘false and misleading claims’ about the tests’ capability.

Police arrested a pharmacist, whose name has not been released, under the Fraud Act 2006. They also seized £20,000 from related properties, a statement said.

The arrest was part of the NCA’s response against exploitation of the Covid-19 pandemic, it said. The organisation has also removed a website which it said was offering likely non-existent personal protective equipment (PPE) through phishing emails.

Two properties and a car linked to the fraudulent suspect were searched. The man was later released on conditional bail.

No Covid-19 tests approved for sale

The government is warning the public against purchasing and using any coronavirus diagnosis testing kits at home. To date, no tests have been approved by the appropriate bodies and, therefore, any being offered could be dangerous to health.

Head of Operations for Enforcement at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Tariq Sarwar, commented: ‘We are committed to working together with law enforcement to protect public health and prevent unsafe medicines and medical devices getting to the public.’

NCA Director of Investigations, Nikki Holland, said the organisation is alert to fraud, which spikes in times of uncertainty. ‘Illegally selling testing kits completely undermines the nation’s collective response to the pandemic and endangers lives.’

Fraudulent criminals have been targeting people who are vulnerable and isolated at home by sending emails offering fake medical supplies, said the NCA. Victims may also be approached with offers of high return investments such as ‘healthcare opportunities’ or appeals to support fake charities.

Director-General of the National Economic Crime Centre, Graeme Biggar, said: ‘Covid-19 is increasingly being used as a hook to commit fraud – and we think these offences are likely to increase during the pandemic.