Millions of illegal pharmaceuticals seized

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More than 10 million illegal medicines and doping substances have been seized by authorities in the current Operation Shield III. The Europol operation has also uncovered several organized crime networks, including in Europe.

Between April and October 2022, Europol coordinated its Operation Shield for the third time now, with the aim of combatting trafficking in counterfeit, falsified, or misused medicines and doping substances. According to the authorities, police and customs agencies from 19 EU member states and nine other countries1 were able to seize goods estimated at more than 40 million euros. These include over 10.5 million units of medicines or doping substances and over one million counterfeit Covid‑19 tests. Compared to the previous year, there has been a notable decrease – in 2021, the authorities confiscated pharmaceuticals worth around 63 million euros in Operation Shield II and arrested more than 540 suspects.

Both online and offline, authorities said they took action against counterfeit medicines as part of Shield III. In total, nearly 200 investigations were carried out and around 350 people were arrested or reported to the judicial authorities. In addition, more than 218,000 shipments were inspected, of which over one-third were seized. On the Internet, over 580 websites were monitored and close to 90 were shut down. The seized illegal products included, for example, erectile dysfunction medicines, food supplements, sanitary products, medical devices, and counterfeit Covid‑19 vaccines.

Around 60 organized crime groups were also investigated in the course of the operation. In Greece, for instance, authorities took action against a network that had been distributing illegal pharmaceuticals for years. A large-scale police operation uncovered two labs used to process raw materials, which had been trafficked via Moldova and Bulgaria, into various products.

Another action was, for example, led by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). In a cooperation with customs authorities from 14 EU member states, the authorities seized more than 430,000 tablets (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain).

The third edition of Operation Shield was led by law enforcement authorities from France, Greece, Italy, and Spain. The authorities were supported by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the World Customs Organization (WCO), and various national medicine agencies.

1 EU member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain.
Other countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Georgia, Iceland, Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, and the United States.
Sources: Europol, OLAF

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