Staff working for the state-owned company Kimia Farma have reportedly been rinsing swabs and using them on passengers since late last year. Under coronavirus regulations, travelers are required to produce a negative result before flying, and the airport had used the company to supply the rapid antigen test kits.
Many people opt to take a test at the airport instead of sourcing one independently.
Police allege that those involved in the scam violated health and consumer laws. At least one employee, who has since been fired, is suspected of using profits from reuse of the test kits to build a lavish house.
According to officials, the suspects made at least $125,000 over the past few months. An estimated 100 to 200 people a day passed through the company’s test site, which charged 200,000 rupiah ($13) per test.
The scam is thought to have been exposed after a string of false positives were traced back to the Kimia Farma test site, local media reported. The suspicious results prompted police to send an undercover officer to take a test, which produced a positive reading at the site. He subsequently tested negative elsewhere.
The business was then raided, with officers finding more evidence that test kits were being recycled. Authorities have since expressed concern not only about the fraudulent activity but about passengers’ potential exposure to infection.
Two lawyers who frequently used the airport and its testing service are seeking to sue the company for violations of professional ethics.
One of the lawyers, Ranto Sibarani, also told local media outlets that the tests were unusually painful and probing, saying he suspected it was because employees knew the test kits were faulty, making them harder to use.
“I feel that I am the victim of serious fraud and that I was violated through my nose,” Sibarani told the South China Morning Post, adding that he and his colleague hope to file a collective lawsuit claiming compensation for each of the 9,000 passengers who have alleged they were affected.
Indonesia’s minister of state-owned enterprises, Erick Thohir, took to Twitter last week to condemn those involved and urging severe punishment.
Indonesia has experienced one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, with more than 46,300 deaths and more than 1.6 million confirmed cases since the pandemic began.