90 COUNTRIES TOOK PART IN OPERATION PANGEAXlll ORGANISED BY INTERPOL WITH THE AIM OF REMOVING MILLIONS OF FAKE CORONAVIRUS MEDICINES AND MASKS OFF THE EUROPEAN MARKET.
Criminals desperate to cash in on the coronavirus crisis have seen a dramatic rise in the illicit online sale of medicines and medical products, Italy and Spain being especially targeted. The police are aware and on the lookout for products like these along the Costa-del-sol, remember to always purchase medicines and masks from verified sources.
The outbreak of the coronavirus disease has offered an opportunity for fast cash, as criminals take advantage of the high market demand for personal protection and hygiene products.
Law enforcement agencies taking part in Operation Pangea found 2,000 online links advertising items related to COVID-19. Of these, counterfeit surgical masks were the medical device most commonly sold online, accounting for around 600 cases during the week of action.
The seizure of more than 34,000 counterfeit and substandard masks, “corona spray”, “coronavirus packages” or “coronavirus medicine” reveals only the tip of the iceberg regarding this new trend in counterfeiting.
“Once again, Operation Pangea shows that criminals will stop at nothing to make a profit. The illicit trade in such counterfeit medical items during a public health crisis shows their total disregard for people’s wellbeing or their lives,” said Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL’s Secretary General.
Seizures and Web site Closures
During the week of action (3 – 10 March 2020) authorities in participating INTERPOL, countries inspected more than 326,000 packages of which more than 48,000 were seized by customs and regulatory authorities.
Overall, authorities seized around 4.4 million units of illicit pharmaceuticals worldwide. Among them were:
- erectile dysfunction pills
- anti-cancer medication
- hypnotic and sedative agents
- anabolic steroids
- nervous system agents
- dermatological agents
More than 37,000 unauthorized and counterfeit medical devices were also seized, the vast majority of which were surgical masks and self-testing kits (HIV and glucose), but also various surgical instruments.
Information received from the participating countries during the operation points to a considerable decrease in international shipments of small parcels (by about 40 per cent), probably due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The operation has already closed down more than 2,500 web links, including websites, social media pages, online marketplaces and online adverts for illicit pharmaceuticals with a similar number in the process of being closed down. The combined efforts of the authorities disrupted the activities of 37 organized crime groups.
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