US President Donald Trump on Saturday denied accusations of “piracy” over an order of 200,000 respirator masks destined for Berlin that German officials said went missing amid a global mass shortage during the coronavirus pandemic.
Berlin’s regional interior minister Andreas Geisel said on Friday the medical-grade face masks were confiscated by US officials in Thailand and accused the United States of “modern piracy” and “Wild West methods.”
“There’s been no act of piracy, it’s the opposite,” Trump told a White House press briefing on Saturday night.
German officials had initially said they placed the order with a US firm, leading to speculation that the firm was US conglomerate 3M, but the officials later said it had been a German dealer.
3M said earlier there were no indications that masks were seized, and told dpa it had no paperwork on a shipment of masks destined for Berlin.
Officials in Berlin said on Saturday they were still working to establish what happened to the order of FFP2-certified masks.
“We are working on clarifying the details,” state interior ministry spokesman Martin Pallgen said on Saturday.
Pallgen said it remained unclear what exactly happened at the airport in Bangkok.
He said that Berlin police had ordered and paid for 400,000 medical-grade masks from a German specialized dealer, correcting the ministry’s previous statement, which had said the order was placed with a US firm.
The claim that the masks had been confiscated in Bangkok was based on information from the dealer, according to the spokesman. The company also said that the plane carrying the masks had left Bangkok for the US.
Trump appeared to suggest that 3M was the dealer when asked about the incident, before repeating criticisms he had made earlier in the week of the US conglomerate, which had rejected a request from the Trump administration to cease exporting respirators to Canada and Latin America.
“3M has not treated our country well … they ought to get their act together,” the president told journalists.
The 200,000 masks in question were the first batch of Berlin’s order, Pallgen explained, adding that the Berlin city authority was working with police in the city and the retailer to establish the chain of events.