European action against counterfeit medicines and doping substances worth more than 40 million euros

For six months in 2022, Europol coordinated the third edition of Operation Shield, a global initiative to combat trafficking of counterfeit medicines and doping substances. As a consequence of this action, more than 10.5 million medical products were seized, 349 suspects were arrested or reported to the judicial authorities and 10 clandestine laboratories were shut down.

The operation involved police and customs authorities from 28 countries (19 EU member states and 9 non-EU countries). The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) coordinated customs agencies, while the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) provided financial aid. The operation was supported by Frontex, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and national medicine agencies.

Law enforcement officers dismantled 59 criminal groups and arrested or reported 349 suspects to judicial authorities during the operation. In parallel, authorities seized massive quantities of illegal medicines, doping products and substances, food and sports supplements, as well as counterfeit COVID vaccines, healthcare products and medical devices. Doping substances and erectile dysfunction medication were among the most seized items. To increase prevention and awareness, some participating states launched anti-doping campaigns and conducted controls.

The final outcome of Operation Shield was as follows: seizures worth more than 40 million euros, seizure of more than 10.5 million units of medicines and doping substances, seizure of more than 1 million counterfeit COVID tests, 195 investigations carried out, 349 suspects arrested or reported to judicial authorities, 59 organized crime groups investigated, 10 underground laboratories closed, 588 websites monitored, 89 websites shut down, more than 218,000 shipments checked, more than 74,000 shipments seized, 3,526 in-competition anti-doping controls carried out (39 positive) and, finally, 3,245 out-of-competition anti-doping controls carried out (9 positive).

Many cases of large-scale medicine trafficking were revealed during the operation, which confirmed that it can be as lucrative as or even more lucrative than narcotics trafficking. While the aforementioned crimes generate massive illicit profits for traffickers and counterfeiters, the public finances and social care systems of some member states bear the brunt of very high financial costs. The cost to public health is also significant, whether due to the treatment of addictive behaviours or to the consequences of overdoses or shortages.

Although criminal networks are still taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the COVID-19 pandemic, trafficking of medicines and protective equipment has seen a significant decrease due to the high level of attention to the phenomenon and intense monitoring by law enforcement. Governments that offered vaccines free of charge contributed to creating an unfavourable situation for criminals seeking to feed an illegal market. In some cases, several fraud attempts targeting national agencies responsible for the supply of medicines and protective devices could be detected and thwarted.


Aquest apunt en català / Esta entrada en español / Post en français

Deixa un comentari