Hong Kong man fined US$39k in US for selling scam ‘virus shut out’ cards, still approved for sale in HK

Hong Kong man fined and given probation sentence in the US for selling anti-virus 'Shut Out' cards

A Hong Kong-American man living in the US has been handed a US$39,690 (HK$309,000) fine and sentenced to a one year probation order by a US federal court for importing “virus shut out cards” from Hong Kong and reselling them in the States. The product remains widely available in Hong Kong stores.

virus shut out scam toamit hong kong
A 7-Eleven store in Central. File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The defendant, Kwong Yau Lam, 67, is a citizen of Hong Kong and a US permanent resident in Guam, said a US Justice Department statement. Last Tuesday, he was handed a one year probation order for the distribution and sale of an unregistered pesticide along with a conspiracy charge at the District Court of Guam.

He was also handed a US$39,690 fine, The Guam Daily Post reported.

The Japanese Toamit “Virus Shut Out Card” is hung from a lanyard that purports to protect the wearer from viruses. It contains chlorine dioxide, but medical experts called the product a “complete scam.”

The “anti-viral” necklace has been banned by eBay and Facebook and by several US territories, whilst both Vietnamese and Thai authorities have confiscated them amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Australian experts warn they may be harmful to children.

Sold in Hong Kong

Since last March, Lam had sold 100 “Virus Shut Out Cards” to three merchants in Guam and told them they would protect people from viruses. He then placed additional orders for three boxes of 900 cards with a relative in Hong Kong, and had them sent to the US. Two of the boxes in the order were seized by authorities in Hawaii, the Justice Department statement said.

He had no approval from any government agency to import them and lied to officers about not having sold any of the cards in the US, according to the statement.

virus shut out
“Virus shut out cards” are still available for sale at a Hong Kong online grocery store. Photo: HKTVMall screenshot.

The US Environmental Protection Agency identified the necklaces as “illegal health products,” according to USA Today.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department told HKFP in April that it found no fault related to the sale of the product after a months-long probe: “[An] investigation into the case under the direction of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance has already been concluded. No offence is found under the Ordinance.”

The product had been spotted at Hong Kong’s Bonjour stores, SASA, at 7-Eleven convenience stores, on HKTV mall and at Watsons pharmacies, for under HK$100. The product remains available at Hong Kong stores and online for as little as HK$5.

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