A Berlin senator who accused the US of “piracy” by diverting a shipment of protective masks bound for the German capital has backtracked, and now says that no American firm was involved in the mix-up. But the masks remain missing.
According to Berlin’s Senator for the Interior Andreas Geisel, a shipment of protective masks left a 3M factory in China last week and arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, from where they were due to be shipped to Berlin’s police force. However, the masks never arrived.
Geisel claimed on Friday that they had been rerouted by 3M to the US, after President Donald Trump threatened that the American firm would “have a big price to pay” if it continued to supply foreign customers over domestic clients.
Geisel, a Social Democrat, accused the US of engaging in “modern piracy,” and Berlin Mayor Michael Muller called the apparent mask swiping “inhumane and unacceptable.”
But cracks in Geisel’s story soon emerged. 3M denied diverting any shipment, and stated that it had never received an order from the German city. The White House too denied any involvement.
Geisel has walked back his accusation, claiming on Saturday that the masks had been ordered from a German firm, and not from 3M. “We are trying to work out the details” with the police department in Berlin, his office stated on Twitter.
The clarification came only after the American media picked up on the story, and Trump gloated on Sunday when the Washington Post edited its story on the incident, calling it “Corrected Fake News!”
However, the masks are still unaccounted for. While 3M may not have sent them stateside at Trump’s behest, it remains possible that someone else may have acquired them during the stopover in Bangkok. Similar disappearances have been reported around the world, with fingers pointed at the US.
Regional officials in France, for example, have accused American buyers of intercepting shipments of protective gear and purchasing the supplies at inflated prices. One shipment was “bought out with cash by Americans on the tarmac, and the plane that was to fly to France took off for the US instead,” Renaud Muselier, the head of the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, told RT France on Wednesday.
The government of Canada has promised to investigate similar claims from Canadian buyers. All the while, the US has repeatedly denied any foul play.
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