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Thousands of illicit online pharmacies shut down in global operation targeting fake medicines

22 мая 2014

Press release 

Nearly 200 enforcement agencies across 111 countries have taken part in Operation Pangea VII targeting criminal networks behind the sale of fake medicines via illicit online pharmacies, resulting in 237 arrests worldwide and the seizure of more than USD 31 million worth of potentially dangerous medicines. 

The Operation led to the launch of 1,235 investigations, the removal of more than 19,000 adverts for illicit pharmaceuticals via social media platforms and more than 10,600 websites shut down. 

In addition to interventions on the ground, which resulted in the identification and dismantlement of three illicit laboratories in Colombia, the operation also targeted the main areas exploited by organized crime in the illegal online medicine trade: rogue domain name registrars, electronic payment systems and delivery services. 

Operation Pangea VII was coordinated by INTERPOL, with the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC), the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers (WGEO), the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) and Europol, with support from the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) and private sector companies including G2 Web Services, LegitScript, Mastercard, Microsoft, PayPal and Visa. 

As well as raids at addresses linked to the illicit pharmaceutical websites, some 543,000 packages were inspected by Customs and regulatory authorities, of which nearly 20,000 were seized during the international week of action (13 – 20 May).

Among the 8.3 million fake and illicit medicines seized during the operation were slimming pills, cancer medication, cough and cold medication, anti-malarial, cholesterol medication and nutritional products.

Throughout Operation Pangea VII, INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon served as the central hub for information exchange among the participating countries and agencies. From this base, the WCO’s Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for Western Europe coordinated activities between the 90 participating Customs administrations, via the WCO’s secure communication tool CENcomm, and the Pangea team, and a mobile Europol office also conducted cross-checks.