Police in Lusaka have arrested six people, among them two pharmacy owners for selling HIV and Malaria test kits donated to be distributed for free by USAID.

In a statement issued by U.S Embassy Public Affairs Officer Janet Deutsch, the six were arrested after a five-month long investigation by the USAID Office of Inspector General (OIG) in collaboration with local law enforcement agencies.

“Last week, authorities in Zambia arrested and held six individuals, including two pharmacy owners, involved in the illicit sale of HIV and malaria test kits in Lusaka. The arrests took place using evidence gathered during a five-month-long investigation by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Inspector General (OIG). In the weeks prior to the arrests, USAID carried out joint investigative work with the Zambia National Task Force (ZNTF). The task force consists of the Zambia Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), Zambia Medical Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA), Ministry of Health (MOH), and Zambia police,” Deutsch stated.

Deutsch explained that initially, 13 people were arrested but six were identified as the main targets and they remained in jail.

“Last week’s arrests stem from a proactive initiative that USAID began in June 2017. Officials visited pharmacies across the city to determine if U.S. Government-funded products were being sold for profit. During these visits, USAID quickly identified individuals involved in the illegal sale of stolen HIV and malaria test kits, which were later confirmed to have been provided through U.S. Government and The Global Fund programs. USAID shared evidence from its investigation with members of the ZNTF, triggering joint investigative efforts that led the ZNTF, assisted by USAID OIG, to detain 13 individuals involved in illegally selling the test kits,” explained Deutsch.

“Following the arrests, six individuals are considered the main targets of the investigation and remain in jail. Zambian authorities released an additional seven individuals after they secured bail on the condition that they return for further questioning. USAID OIG conducts independent investigations and audits to make U.S. foreign assistance programs more efficient, effective, and accountable. Promoting integrity in the global health supply chain stands among OIG’s top investigative priorities and OIG operates worldwide to investigate complaints of fraud and misconduct in global health programs.”

And USAID’s Washington-based OIG Special Agent in Charge overseeing global health investigations Jonathan Schofield said the organisation would continue investigations in order to stop the criminals.

“We coordinate closely with international partners to thwart the work of criminals who prey upon the U.S. Government-supported global health supply chain. Our recent work with partners in the U.S. Embassy in Zambia and ZNTF has stopped several offenders who exploited international aid for personal gain. We continue to obtain additional information on ways the supply chain was compromised, allowing it to be repaired, strengthened, and better positioned to serve the people of Zambia in the future,” Schofield said.

The U.S. Government provides HIV and antimalarial test kits, along with other health commodities, under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President’s Malaria Initiative, and through contributions to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

The commodities, provided in Zambia and around the world, are intended to be distributed to beneficiaries free of charge.