11 Mar 2020
By Will Neal
OCCRP — Investigators in more than 15 countries have seized almost 36 million units of medical drugs in a coordinated sting on European groups trafficking black market and counterfeit medications.
Operation Misused Medicines (MisMed), backed by Europol and now in its third phase, took place between July and October 2019. The drugs seized included anticancer and antiviral treatments, narcotics, painkillers, erectile dysfunction medications and doping substances, according to a statement released on Monday.
Many of these medicines were stolen from hospitals, illegally manufactured and packed in underground laboratories, or diverted from legal wholesale supply chains to be sold to criminal groups.
Official estimates put the combined value of the seizure at €7.9 million (US$8.9 million). Authorities reportedly arrested around 165 suspects and recovered €1.5 million ($1.7million) in assets, causing disruption to at least 12 organised criminal groups.
The numbers represent a decline on previous years. In 2018, the second Operation MisMed yielded €162 million ($184 million) in black-market medicines and assets and led to the arrest of 435 suspects, while the initiative’s first iteration in 2017 brought in just over €226 million ($256 million) and resulted in the arrest of around 100 black market actors.
France’s National Gendarmerie and Finnish Customs led the initiative, with participation from enforcement agencies in Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States. The operation also received support from Europol, the EU Intellectual Property Office, Eurojust and the European Anti-Fraud Office.
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