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UK police seize huge haul of prescription drugs destined for sale on illicit online pharmacies

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A joint operation between police in the UK city of Manchester and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has resulted in the seizure of pharmaceutical drugs estimated to be worth several million pounds.

Raids which took place at multiple locations across Manchester saw investigating officers discover genuine prescription drugs such as tramadol and diazepam, which detectives said had been illegally diverted from the UK pharmaceutical supply chain before being offered for sale online.

The precise number of pills seized during the raids and their total value has yet to be established.

Operation Pyarr was carried out with support from the UK’s Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), which is responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices are safe.

Detective Chief Inspector Charlotte Cadden of Greater Manchester Police’s Bury Borough said: “We have spent the past few months identifying where the public are able to get hold of these controlled drugs, and uncovering who is responsible.

“From our investigation, it is clear that this is a comprehensive operation, with genuine pharmaceuticals being unlawfully removed from the supply chain in the UK and then sold, illegally, online.

“While we have made arrests, we are continuing with our investigation and are committed to finding those who facilitate the supply of illegal substances in Greater Manchester.

“I’m asking for the public to continue to report anything suspicious to the police, and ensure that we can look after the public who are taken in by drugs that they believe are legal.”

In January 2015, the MHRA announced that it had seized prescription drugs worth an estimated £3 million ($3.95 million), including erectile dysfunction medication, slimming pills, sleeping tablets and antidepressants.

Unlike the genuine medication discovered in Manchester, the majority of these drugs had originated from India and China, where illicit factories pump out illegal copies of major pharmaceutical firms’ best-selling products.

Last month, Interpol and Europol announced they had arrested 400 people and seized potentially-harmful medication worth more than $51 million in a global crackdown on illegal online pharmacies.

Operation Pangea X resulted in the launch of 1,058 new investigations, the closure of 3,584 websites, and the removal of more than 3,000 online ads for illicit pharmaceuticals.

The global market for fake drugs was worth $431 billion in 2012, according to the World Health Organisation, which no longer estimates the size of the illicit trade due to the difficulty in providing an accurate assessment.

Organised criminal gangs use a number of methods to illegally obtain prescription drugs. Some groups divert genuine medicines from official supply chains, or get hold of out of date pharmaceuticals, which they repackage before selling on as being fit for use.

Others make fake pills themselves, or buy in bulk from illegal drug factories in countries such as China or India. Many of these either contain too much or too little of their purported active ingredient, or have been found to be made up of harmful substances such as antifreeze, paint and concrete.

Despite the launch of information campaigns in western countries designed to warn members of the public of the dangers of buying counterfeit medicines on the internet, many consumers still use illicit online pharmacies, in some cases to avoid the stigma of speaking with their doctor about potentially embarrassing conditions such as erectile dysfunction or depression.

 

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Major US hotel chains sued for failing to prevent sex trafficking in their rooms for decades

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US lawyers are suing 12 major hotel chains on behalf of women who claim the firms have profited from allowing sex trafficking and prostitution to take place in their properties.

In total, 13 women have accused hotel brands including Best Western and Hilton of failing to prevent sex trafficking from taking place in their rooms, alleging that the companies have made money from trafficked women and children being sexually exploited.

New York law firm Weitz & Luxenberg has filed litigation in a federal court in Columbus, Ohio, that brings together 13 separate lawsuits relating to hotels in a number of US cities, marking the first time the hospitality industry has faced such action.

Accusing the hotel firms of benefitting financially from the trafficking of women and children and “providing a marketplace for sex trafficking”, the suit alleges the companies have allowed sex trafficking to take place across their businesses for decades, and says it is time that they were held accountable for allowing the illicit trade to continue unchecked.

KOIN 6 News reports that one woman who claims she was forced by a pimp to sleep with as many as seven men every night is talking legal action against six hotel firms for the role they played in her abuse.

She is seeking $10 million in damages.

“Rather than taking timely and effective measures to thwart this epidemic, defendant hotels have instead chosen to ignore the open and obvious presence of sex trafficking on their properties, enjoying the profit from rooms rented for this explicit and apparent purpose,” the suit reads.

In a statement, Hilton Worldwide Holdings said: “Hilton condemns all forms of human trafficking, including for sexual exploitation. As signatories of the ECPAT [formerly End Child Prostitution and Trafficking] Code since 2011, we are fully committed, in each and every one of our markets, to protecting individuals from all forms of abuse and exploitation.”

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts said: “We condemn human trafficking in any form.”

Back in January, Marriott announced that it had provided 500,000 of its staff members with training on how to spot the signs that a guest might be a victim of human trafficking, and what they should do in the event they are faced with such a scenario.

Speaking at the time, David Rodriguez, Chief Global Human Resources Officer at Marriott International, said: “Hotels can unfortunately be unwilling venues for this unconscionable crime – and as a global hotel company that cares about human rights, we’re proud to be training hotel workers across the Marriott system to spot the signs.”

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UK charities warned to look out for social engineering spear phishing emails

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The UK’s Charity Commission has warned that scammers are impersonating charity workers via email and attempting to change employees’ bank details.

After receiving several reports of spear phishing campaigns targeting people who work at charitable organisations, the commission cautioned that fraudsters are using spoofed email addresses to pose as staff with authority to update employees’ banking information.

The fraudsters behind the social engineering scam typically write in their emails that they have changed their bank details or opened a new account.

Alan Bryce, head of development, counter fraud and cyber crime at the commission, said: “We know several charities have been targeted by this fraud and we want to ensure others are equipped to protect themselves.

“So, our message to charities is clear: read and understand our guidance on fraud, and check who’s sending an email whenever you receive a message about changes to staff bank details.”

In advice on how charities can protect themselves, the commission said organisations should review internal procedures regarding how employee details are amended and approved, and train staff not to click on links or open attachments in suspicious emails.

A report published by the commission to coincide with the UK’s Charity Fraud Awareness Week, which took place in October, revealed that over half of fraud carried out against charities is committed by perpetrators known to the organisation affected.

The study found that while over two-thirds of UK charities consider fraud to be a major risk, less than 9% offer fraud awareness training to their staff members.

More than half (58%) of charitable organisations surveyed for the study said they believe cyber crime poses a major threat to the sector.

In a separate report also published in October, the commission and the UK Fraud Advisory Panel revealed that one in every six major organisations that make up Britain’s £80 billion ($105.4 million). charity sector will be affected by cyber crime over the course of the next two years.

Twenty-two percent of charities said they believe that cyber crime is a greater risk to the sector than any other threat, with larger charities typically being more likely to appreciate the risk of cyber crime.

“This may be because larger charities generally have a greater capability to detect cyber crime,” the report concluded.

“Many small and medium sized charities are less aware of the cyber crime threat, yet are probably more at risk.”

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Hewlett Packard seizes counterfeit products worth $11 million in India as part of its global anti-fraud programme

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Hewlett Packard seizes counterfeit products

US technology giant Hewlett Packard (HP) has seized counterfeit products worth INR 80 Crores ($11.26 million) in India over the course of the past year as part of its global Anti-Counterfeiting and Fraud (ACF) programme.

Releasing information about the last 12 months of the campaign in India as part of its efforts to raise awareness of the extent of the piracy of printing supplies in the country, HP revealed that the Delhi-National Capital Region leads the nation in terms of seizure value, with confiscations worth 33.5 Crores taking place there over the past year.

Bangalore finished the year in second place with seizures of INR 22 Crores, followed by Mumbai and Chennai with 6.5 and INR 3.5 Crores, respectively.

HP worked with police across the country to carry out raids on more than 170 premises, resulting in the arrest of over 140 suspects and the seizure of completed and unfinished bogus cartridges, counterfeit packaging materials, and various sets of labels that were used during the manufacture of HP print supplies.

Noting in a statement that counterfeit print supplies can pose a significant business risk to companies that use them in the form of printer damage and associated downtime, HP said it works in close cooperation with law enforcement agencies the world over to crack down on counterfeiters that produce fake versions of its products.

Back in June, a survey commissioned by HP revealed that businesses around the world were at a greater risk of being sold fake printer supplies than ever before.

The poll, which was carried out on behalf of HP by market research firm Harris Interactive, found the availability of counterfeit printer products was being driven by an increasingly broad supplier ecosystem, a lack of certainty among buyers that their purchases were genuine, and an absence of awareness of the risks of using counterfeit goods.

The study showed that $3 billion is lost every year to counterfeit print products.

Speaking at the time, Glenn Jones, Director of HP’s ACF programme, commented: “Every one of the key market indicators we monitor show a significant increase in the risk of counterfeit print supplies.

“For companies like HP, counterfeits undermine decades of focused research and testing aimed at creating superior ink and toner, and reliable, high-quality cartridges for our customers.

“For users, fakes cause a significant increase in print failures, low page yield, poor print quality, leaks and clogs, in addition to voiding hardware warranties.”

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