Tackling organized crime networks behind global crackdown on illicit online pharmacies
Brussels, 4 October 2012
A global operation spanning 100 countries aimed at disrupting organized crime networks behind the illicit online sale of medicines has resulted in some 80 arrests and the worldwide seizure of 3.75 million units of potentially life-threatening medicines worth 10.5 million US dollars, thereby highlighting the scale of the traffic and the danger it represents.
Operation Pangea V, which involved Customs, police, and national regulatory authorities, is the largest internet-based action of its kind, targeting the international black market in fake and illicit medicines, and raising public awareness of the significant health risks associated with buying medicines online, as well as the increased chance of becoming a victim of identity and credit card fraud.
Coordinated by INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC), the Heads of medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers (HMA WGEO), the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) and EUROPOL, for the first time, Operation Pangea was also supported by the Center for Safe Online Pharmacies (CSIP) which brings together 12 of the world’s leading internet and e-commerce companies.
"The fruits of Customs, police and national regulatory agencies working in a coordinated manner for a common goal have resulted in the removal of a host of illicit medicines from the market," said WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya. "Customs stands by its commitment to protect consumer health and safety through sustained global action in partnership with INTERPOL and other law enforcement agencies, as well as key global trade stakeholders," he added.
During Pangea V, which ran from 25 September to 2 October, support by companies, including Legiscript, Visa, Mastercard and Paypal, resulted in more than 18,000 websites linked to illicit online pharmacies being identified and shut down, the suspension of payment facilities of online rogue pharmacies, and the disruption of a massive number of spam emails and social networking messages.
“It is thanks to the efforts of all agencies involved, police, Customs, health regulatory authorities and the private sector, that we have seen the most significant results since Pangea I was first launched five years ago,” said INTERPOL Secretary General, Ronald K. Noble. “This is a major boost in protecting the health and safety of the public, and tackling the organized networks behind this crime,” he added.
In the course of the Operation, some 133,000 packages were inspected by Customs authorities and regulators, of which 6,700 were seized, containing counterfeit and illicit medicines such as anti-cancer medication, antibiotics, erectile dysfunction pills, and slimming and food supplements. To date, 80 individuals have been arrested for a range of offences, including selling without a licence, operating clandestine laboratories and running websites selling illicit medicines.
A dedicated operations room was established at the headquarters of INTERPOL's General Secretariat in Lyon, throughout the course of Pangea V, providing participating countries and organizations with a central information exchange point for updates on interventions and seizures. The 81 participating Customs administrations and seven WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs) used CENcomm, a WCO secure communication tool, to exchange vital intelligence and information.
The final results of Pangea V will be released once all investigations have been concluded, and information relating to organized crime networks gathered during the Operation will be reviewed and analysed to identify additional criminal networks around the world.