According to several news reports (SPIEGEL, RBB24, BBC) the Berlin police bought face masks of which 200,000 were confiscated in Bangkok.

  • BBC, 4 April, 2020:

    The US has been accused of redirecting 200,000 Germany-bound masks for its own use, in a move condemned as "modern piracy".

    The local government in Berlin said the shipment of US-made masks was "confiscated" in Bangkok.


    Mr Geisel said the diversion of masks from Berlin amounted to an "act of modern piracy", urging the Trump administration to adhere to international trading rules.

Berlin's interior minister is blaming the US Administration, which denies the accusations:

  • t-online, 4 April 2020, via Google translate

    Now the White House is responding to the allegations from Berlin - and has rejected the allegations at the request of t-online.de. The USA would not have confiscated or taken any masks that were to be delivered to another country. A senior government official spoke of allegations of disinformation that was "completely wrong." t-online.

Also note that the company 3M who sold the masks denies that this happened. Is there any more evidence (preferably from the US) regarding the claim made by the interior minister and the news reports?


3 Answers 3


The German newspaper Tagesspiegel has an updated article that says the masks have not been confiscated; instead they went to a higher bidder, whose identity is so far unknown.

Nach Tagesspiegel-Informationen ist die interne Sprachregelung der Polizei, dass die für die Berliner Polizei bestimmte Ware in Thailand aufgekauft wurde. Die verbindlich zugesagte Lieferung von 200.000 von insgesamt 400.000 FFP 2-Masken sei „im letzten Moment an einen anderen Käufer umgeleitet worden“.

Intern ist unter Berufung auf den deutschen Händler und Vertragspartner auch die Rede davon, dass die Ware an die USA ging - ob an eine Firma oder an staatliche Stellen, blieb unklar. Thailand könnte aber auch selbst den Verkauf an Berlin gestoppt haben. Oder ein gewiefter Zwischenhändler könnte auf einen größeren Profit aus gewesen sein.


Very very roughly :

According to information obtained by Tagesspiegel internal police communications now say that the order placed by the Berlin police has been bought up in Thailand. The confirmed delivery of 200 000 mask, of an order of 400 000, had been "redirected at the last moment to another buyer".

It is claimed that, according to German contractors, the goods were shipped to the US, but that it is unclear if a private company or the government is behind this. It might also be that Thailand stopped the delivery, or that a clever intermediary is looking for a higher profit.

What seems certain by now is that the original claims were wrong/inappropriate. The publicly funded TV station RBB reports that, contrary to prior reporting, the masks have not been ordered with 3M directly, but with a German intermediary.

Er korrigierte damit Angaben der Innenverwaltung vom Vortag, in denen von einer Bestellung bei einem US-Hersteller die Rede gewesen war. Der US-Konzern 3M, dessen Name in diesem Zusammenhang genannt worden war, erklärte, ihm sei nichts von einer Bestellung der Berliner Polizei bekannt.

Nach neuesten rbb-Informationen wurden zwar Masken des US-Unternehmens 3M bestellt - allerdings nicht direkt, sondern bei einem deutschen Lieferanten, der ein langjähriger Vertragspartner der Berliner Polizei ist.

Again, very roughly:

He [Martin Pallgen, the speaker of the Administration of the German federal state of Berlin] corrected a statement by the administration from the previous day which claimed the order had been placed with a US company, 3M, who had been mentioned in that context, had stated that they knew nothing about an order from the Berlin police forces.

According to new information obtained by RBB the order had been for masks produced by 3M - however they haven't been ordered directly with the company, but with a German distributor who has been a partner for the German police for a number of years.


So reporting on this is developing, but it seems most of the original claims have fallen apart. The only thing that seems certain is that a large order of masks has not arrived in Germany, and there are attempts to attach blame somewhere.

  • Your answer implies that the USA obtained masks which were previously bought by another country - which the USA explicitly denied.
    – M. Stern
    Apr 4, 2020 at 22:10
  • @M.Stern, I added a bit of new information, which should address your concerns.
    – user21930
    Apr 4, 2020 at 22:39
  • Thanks for the new source. I'm not sure I understand the implications of the new wording. Geisel still says "Der Händler hat die Polizei informiert, dass die Lieferung aufgrund einer US-Direktive storniert und das Frachtflugzeug mit der Lieferung nicht nach Deutschland, sondern in die USA geflogen ist.", so it still the original claim?
    – M. Stern
    Apr 5, 2020 at 10:41
  • 1
    @M.Stern, Geisel has said nothing new. His claims have been basically retracted by the spokesperson for the senate (which I translated as "administration" to avoid confusion for US Americans - the Berlin senate is the executive body of the federal state of Berlin).
    – user21930
    Apr 5, 2020 at 12:05

No, the US did not confiscate 200,000 masks from a delivery to Berlin.

OP specifically asked whether there was evidence, preferably from the US, regarding the claim made by the German interior minister and in news reports. The U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenfell, posted this article on his twitter feed on 4 April 2020, via The Washington Post, Berlin backtracks after accusing U.S. of ‘piracy’ when 200,000 masks went missing:

A Berlin official, who accused the U.S. administration of “piracy” after 200,000 masks for the city police went missing, backtracked Saturday and said the masks were ordered from a German firm.

Geisel wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he had clarified that the order was placed with a German firm and that supply chain issues were being “reviewed.”

3M had denied earlier that it was the mask supplier.

There is further detail via Berliner Zeitung, but I am not able to translate adequately.


In my opinion, "Unresolved current event" as of this Monday; as Politico reported:

  • Chancellor Merkel didn't quite agree that the US didn't do this and called for further investigation.
  • Although 3M indeed denied knowing about any order from Berlin, Berlin later said that they never said they placed the order with 3M anyway, it was the press that somehow [incorrectly] inferred that, so 3M's rebuttal doesn't matter.
  • Berlin still claims (without proof) that the transport intended for them ended up in the US, but provided no evidence in support.

Even Merkel has declined to give Washington the benefit of the doubt.

“For me, it’s important that we get to the bottom of it,” she said during a press conference on Monday. “We have contradictory statements out there, but I think it should be possible to clear it up.”

So far, that's proved tricky.

What is known is that Berlin police placed an order for at least 200,000 “FFP-2” masks, which provide more protection than conventional surgical masks, from a German medical supplier. The supplier, which Berlin officials have yet to name, ordered the masks in Asia.

Just as the masks, which had been paid for in advance, were about to be dispatched from Bangkok to Germany, the order was redirected to the U.S., according to Martin Pallgen, a spokesman for Berlin’s interior ministry.

But Pallgen and other Berlin officials are relying on information provided by the unnamed supplier, who they say told the city’s police department that the masks were redirected as a result of a “U.S. directive.”

That explanation rang true following Trump’s move last week to invoke the Defense Production Act against 3M, a leading U.S. mask producer, compelling the company to provide more masks to the U.S. market. 3M produces many of its masks in Asia.

Thing is, 3M says it has no record of any order from Berlin. And the U.S. insisted on Monday that it didn’t “take any action to divert any 3M supplies that were destined to Germany.”

In other words, since the city’s order wasn’t with 3M, it wouldn’t have been affected by the Trump directive.

Berlin says it never claimed 3M was involved (it was “the media” that did) and doesn’t know who the manufacturer of the missing masks was. [...]

“Whether they were confiscated or cancelled or if someone came with a suitcase full of cash and redirected them to the U.S., our masks ended up in the U.S.,” Geisel said, offering no further details or evidence.

Still, it’s not all bad news for Berlin. The city said on Monday it managed to secure a new shipment of masks for its police — from China.

  • Can you make an insignificant edit to bump this? Or add a few more words amounting to 'real answer' (IMO a suggestion: the 'IMHO-link' is a bit misleading. The link to 'IMHO' doesn't go to Fizz's homepage…)? Apr 9, 2020 at 19:24
  • 1
    @LаngLаngС: I've done a bit of editing. Apr 9, 2020 at 19:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .