Cyprus police confiscated more than 20,000 doses of pharmaceuticals in 2018 in their first participation in a European-wide campaign carried out by Europol.
It was part of a a haul of more than 13 million doses worth in excess of €165 million netted in a crackdown by law enforcement, customs and health regulatory authorities from 16 countries in Europe.
These seizures were part of the Europol-coordinated operation MISMED 2 targeting the illicit trafficking of misused medicines throughout Europe.
Led by the French Gendarmerie Nationale (National Gendarmerie) and the Finnish Tulli (Customs), with the active support of Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coalition (IPC3), MISMED 2 led to 435 arrests and yielded items seized worth in the region of €168 million, including 13 million units and 1.8 tonnes of medicines. Twenty four organised crime groups were disrupted, and criminal assets worth €3.2 million were recovered, Europol said.
These joint actions were carried out over the course of seven months (April-October 2018), the details of which can now only be released due to operational reasons, it added.
Since this operation was first initiated last year, the number of countries taking part in MISMED has grown substantially, reflecting the growing commitment of countries to tackle this threat.
This year, seven new countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Lithuania, Portugal, Serbia and Ukraine) joined forces with the initial nine participating EU Member States (Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Spain and the UK).
The misuse of medicines is a serious and growing problem that needs to be tackled at the European level. Organised crime groups are increasingly turning to this crime area as it provides very high profits for perpetrators and relatively low risks regarding detection and criminal penalties.
This year’s investigations revealed that the trafficking not only covered opioid medicines, but also pharmaceutical products used for the treatment of major illnesses such as cancer and heart conditions, as well as performance and image enhancing drugs.
The number of falsified/counterfeit products being trafficked is also on the rise, as shown by the number of such products seized in this year’s edition of MISMED, accounting for over half of the 13 million units seized.
In Cyprus, police in cooperation with the Pharmaceutical Services carried out a number of searches of houses and other premises and confiscated more than 20,000 doses of pharmaceuticals. Five people were arrested to facilitate investigations.