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In a global operation spanning 116 countries, including the United States, officials with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) announced the seizure of 500 tons of illicit pharmaceuticals.
The move was part of Operation Pangea XI and targets the illegal online sale of medicine and medical products valued at around $14 million. 859 people were arrested across the globe as a result of the operation.
The operation resulted in 859 arrests worldwide and the seizure of USD 14 million worth of potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals.
INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said in a statement that the number of medicines seized was fewer than in previous years, even though more packages were seized.
He said that’s because those involved were changing the ways they ship illicit medications.
“Criminals are now shipping packages containing smaller numbers of pills and tablets to try and avoid the more stringent checks which have become routine in many countries as a result of the Pangea operations. However, this year’s results again show the successes achieved globally in stopping potentially lethal products from reaching unsuspecting customers,” said Stock.
As an example of some of the new tactics, agents in Poland said they discovered counterfeit contraceptive pills inside DVD packaging. Meanwhile illegal sleeping pills were found inside a hollowed out book by Irish agents.
INTERPOL said they focused on the delivery services used and manipulated by criminal networks. They were able to shutdown 3,671 links online, including social media pages, websites and online marketplaces.
During their investigation, nearly one million packages were searched between October 9 and October 16. Among the medications were “anti-inflammatory medication, painkillers, erectile dysfunction pills, hypnotic and sedative agents, anabolic steroids, slimming pills and medicines for treating HIV, Parkinson’s and diabetes.”
Agents also seized more than 110,000 medical devices.
“The public must have confidence that the medicines they are taking are both safe and effective. The criminals involved in selling counterfeit medicines must be identified and brought to justice in order to keep our citizens safe. We are proud to be a part of Operation Pangea XI which has made this a reality,” said Gjoko Tanasoski, Director General of the Customs Administration of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
737 expired cardiac surgery instruments were smuggled into his country.
This was the second major bust for INTERPOL this month. On October 17, the agency announced the seizure of 55 tons of narcotics in a global move called Operation Lionfish.
“Operation Lionfish (September 17 – October 8) led to the arrest of 1,300 suspects and the seizure of more than 35 tons of cocaine, five tons of heroin, 15 tons of cannabis and 430,000 Captagon tablets,” said INTERPOL officials in a statement.