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Hackney man arrested as police swoop on global counterfeit Viagra cartel

PUBLISHED: 12:47 02 September 2014 | UPDATED: 13:01 02 September 2014

The counterfeit drugs which were seized.

The counterfeit drugs which were seized.

Archant

A man from Hackney who detectives believe laundered money through the bank accounts of a local charity was arrested yesterday morning in a dawn raid, as part of a global operation targeting the sale of counterfeit Viagra by a network of criminals.

The counterfeit drugs which were seized.The counterfeit drugs which were seized.

The 62-year-old from Hackney and a 34-year-old man from Barnet – both detained at 6am police swooped simultaneously in Austria, , Belgium, Cyprus and Hungary – are thought to have formed the money-laundering arm of a European criminal counterfeit medicine franchise, by using a charity, which police would not name, as a front.

It is believed that victims from Europe, and some as far afield as Australia, have laid out around £12m for potentially-lethal, phoney drugs for impotency, as well as slimming and anti-smoking pills which were peddled on more than 400 different websites since March 2012.

Det Ch Supt Tom Manson, of the MPS specialist, organised and economic crime command, warned that drugs sold on such websites frequently contain harmful ingredients and have been made in unhygienic conditions.

He said: “These so-called medicines are peddled on very professional looking websites which feature convincing medical advice, but the people behind them have no medical training.

“When you buy a product from these websites, you have no idea what concoctions you are actually getting or the conditions in which they have been made.

“The criminals we are targeting prey on people who want medicine quickly, cheaply and discreetly. They don’t care if those people live or die as result of taking the drugs.

“They just care about the money.”

Evidence including accounts books, trading documents and computers, as well as £30,000 cash, were seized as detectives from the MPS London regional asset recovery team (LRART) searched seven addresses in Barnet, Hackney and Watford this morning, one of which is a community centre.

The two men arrested on suspicion of money laundering, fraud and supplying misleading or false information to the Commission (Charities Act 2011) are currently in custody at a North London police station, and searches and enquiries are ongoing.

Overall the operation resulted in the arrest of 10 other suspsects, the seizure of several million pills with an estimated value well in excess of €10m, several vehicles, including luxury models, and the freezing of more than €7.5m in bank accounts and assets.

Evidence suggests the drugs were made in Asia and dispatched from Austria and other European countries, while card payments were processed by a legitimate UK company and directed to UK bank accounts, believed to be those of the two arrested.

Since September 2012, officers from Austria, the UK, Spain and France, working together with Europol, have seized around 300,000 of the illegal pills en route to various countries.


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