Swiss entrepreneurs Jascha Rudolphi and Luca Steffen became millionaires during the first wave of the pandemic by selling coronavirus protective masks.
According to Swiss media, each of the two made between 30 and 100 million francs (€27-92M, $33-111M) as a result.
Rudolphi and Steffen, both 23, imported the masks from abroad and sold them for between CHF8.50 (€7.80, $9.50) and CHF9.90 (€9.10, $11.06) through their company Emix.
Similar masks now cost less than one franc at most retailers.
The entrepreneurs have come under fire for selling “unusable, perhaps even fake masks to the federal government for horrific sums” reports Swiss news outlet NZZ.
In one such example, Emix sold around 700,000 masks from Egyptian manufacturer Chemi Pharma Medical to the Swiss army which were later presumed to be fakes, as the Egyptian company does not manufacture masks.
The two entrepreneurs are facing potential criminal consequences for their actions. A charge of usury has been opened up by the Zurich public prosecutor's office, while a criminal investigation into Emix is ongoing.
— Die Weltwoche (@Weltwoche) February 6, 2021
The manufacturers however dispute this claim, pointing out a memo from the German Ministry for Health – another Emix customer – who wrote that “”Overall, Emix offered above-average quality with its deliveries and proved to be professional and fast in cooperation.”
The men came to Switzerland’s attention in June of 2020 when news emerged that they had each purchased limited edition Ferraris worth more than CHF2.5 million (€2.3M, $2.8M), along with a number of other cars.
‘We have protected millions’
In an interview with Swiss media outlet NZZ published on Thursday, the entrepreneurs said they had no regret for their actions – although they did acknowledge that the purchase of the special edition cars was a mistake.
“Thanks to us, millions of doctors, nurses, police officers and firefighters have been protected,” said Rudolphi.
“Regarding the accusation that we became rich with taxpayers' money, one must also say that we have now paid a lot of taxes in Switzerland.”
Steffen said it was just good business.
“If you bear in mind that our profit came about through forward-looking negotiations in purchasing and logistics and through the huge volume, I don't have a guilty conscience for a second.”
Rudolphi said he understood why people were angry about the two purchasing Ferraris.
“Buying the cars was insensitive at the time” he said.