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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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Singaporean woman facing 20 years in jail for printing homemade bogus banknotes

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A woman in Singapore is facing as many as 20 years behind bars after police arrested her on suspicion of printing her own homemade counterfeit banknotes.

Officers from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) detained the 30-year-old after receiving multiple reports of attempts to pass off fake S$50 ($37) notes at various retail outlets across the Hougang and Tampines housing estates.

After carrying out enquires, investigators from the SPF’s Commercial Affairs Department identified the woman as the source of the bogus banknotes and proceeded to arrest her.

Police seized two suspected fake banknotes, a printer, stationery, two handbags, and more than S$1,200 in cash from the woman.

The SDF believes she used the printer to produce the fake S$50 notes, which she then proceeded to spend on several low-value items on at least 10 occasions.

She also stands accused of being involved in a theft that took place back in February.

The woman was charged with counterfeiting banknotes and then using them, offences that can be punished in Singapore with a maximum prison term of 20 years and a large fine.

In a statement, the SDF warned members of the public to remain vigilant for people attempting to pass off counterfeit banknotes, and to call police should they be presented with what they suspect may be fake currency.

“Preliminary investigations revealed that the woman is believed to have printed several pieces of S$50 notes with her own printer and used the counterfeit S$50 notes on at least 10 occasions to purchase items of low value,” the SDF said.

“Two pieces of S$50 notes, which are believed to be counterfeits, a printer, printing paper, stationery, apparel, an EZ-link card, cash amounting to more than S$1,200 and two handbags were seized as case exhibits.”

Earlier this month, the SDF said it had received multiple reports of people attempting to spend bogus S$50 and S$100 banknotes at convenience stores, restaurants and retail outlets in a number of locations.

The force said it had arrested and charged three men aged between 25 and 29 in connection with the reports, which it said related to currency that appeared to have been photocopied and lacked security features such as watermarks and security threads.

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Drug traffickers using private airstrips and ports in the Philippines to import narcotics, authorities warn

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Drug investigators in the Philippines are introducing new measures intended to prevent the importation of illicit substances through the country’s hundreds of private airstrips and ports, according to the country’s state-run news agency.

In an interview published on Friday, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) boss Aaron Aquino said traffickers are routinely using unmanned runways and private ports as landing spots for private airplanes, seaplanes and yachts carrying large quantities of illegal drugs.

Aquino raised his concerns after the issue was discussed during the Philippines’ Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) Enforcement Cluster Meeting, which was held earlier this month in Quezon City.

The PDEA is now lobbying for the establishment of a new inter-agency taskforce designed to stop drug traffickers from using the country’s 1,200 private ports as entry points.

“Before, drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are shipping tons of illegal drugs, either finished products or raw materials, through shipside smuggling in the high seas, airports and seaports. But now, they have included in their itineraries unmanned landing strips and private ports as drug transit routes,” Aquino said.

“Airstrips have no airport facilities that is why proper documentation of the name of the arriving passenger/s, cargo details, among others, remains a problem. There is also a possibility that foreign chemists flew in and out of the country via the backdoor using the runways and open seas.”

Separately, the Philippine Information Agency has announced that the PDEA has opened a dedicated rehabilitation centre for glue sniffers in Quezon City.

Opening the Sagip Batang Solvent Reformation Centre, Aquino said the facility would help take children and young people off the street and keep them away from drug use.

Workers at the new site will offer reformative care and reintegrated interventions such as education, counselling, values formation and skills development.

The centre is currently treating 28 solvent abusers, the youngest of whom is aged just 11, the PDEA said.

Impoverished children living in slums across the Philippines regularly sniff glue as a means by which to alleviate their hunger and escape from the squalid nature of their environment.

The industrial solvents they inhale can cause sudden death, brain damage, memory loss and harm to the central nervous system, kidneys and liver.

Children addicted to glue and other solvents in the Philippines often fund their habits through petty crime such as street robberies, extortion and drug dealing.

Earlier this month, the PDEA launched a new programme that will see solvent abusers housed in government institutions until they address their addictions.

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Global food fraud crackdown results in seizure of goods worth $117 million and arrest of 672 suspects

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Fake food and drink products estimated to be worth $117 million have been seized during a global coordinated crackdown on food fraud coordinated by Interpol and Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordination Centre.

Law enforcement officials taking part in the latest instalment of Operation Opson, which is intended to target criminals involved in the sale of counterfeit and substandard food and drink products, also arrested 672 individuals across the world.

Taking place between December 2018 and April this year, Operation Opson VIII saw police, customs officers, food regulatory authorities and private sector partners in 78 countries target individuals and organisations involved in the growing global food fraud trade.

Investigators participating in the effort successfully removed approximately 16, 000 tonnes and 33 million litres of potentially dangerous fake food and drink from global supply chains after collectively carrying out over 67,000 inspections at shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates.

Authorities contributing to the operation reported discovering cheese and chicken products labelled with fraudulent expiry dates, drink products that had been adulterated with controlled drugs, and meat that was stored in unsanitary conditions.

In Zimbabwe, police confiscated more than 14,000 litres of soft drinks that contained high levels of the active ingredient in erectile dysfunction medication, while investigators in Belarus impounded more than 60 tonnes of apples that were being transported under forged documentation.

Law enforcement officers in Russia seized 4,200 litres of counterfeit alcohol as they shut down an illicit vodka production site, while their colleagues in South Africa detained three suspects in connection with the discovery of alcohol meant for export that had been repackaged and sold domestically to avoid taxes.

Elsewhere, customs investigators in Italy seized over 150,000 litres of poor-quality sunflower oil that fraudsters had attempted to pass off as extra virgin oil by adding chlorophyll and beta-carotene to the finished product.

Revealing the results of the latest Opson operation in a statement, Interpol Director of Organised and Emerging Crime Paul Stanfield said: “Counterfeit and substandard food and beverages can be found on the shelves in shops around the world, and their increasing sale online is exacerbating the threat that food crime poses to the public.

“Operation Opson VIII saw a substantial amount of counterfeit food and drink taken out of circulation, but there is much more that can be done.

“Interpol calls for further efforts and better coordination at the national, regional and international levels in order to stem this tide which endangers the health of consumers worldwide.”

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