Fake Viagra and Cialis tablets among seized HK controlled drugs

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Anti-impotence drugs made up the bulk of a record HK $ 55 million (US $ 7 million) in controlled pharmaceuticals seized in a customs crackdown on a transnational union, which allegedly sent the workers. tablets to customers around the world from its Hong Kong operations center. .

Customs officers arrested three women and two men in a series of city-wide raids over the past month, in which they confiscated 1.6 million pills disguised as general cargo that had been flown in Turkey.

More than 70 percent of prescription or controlled drugs, valued at HK $ 41 million, were for the treatment of erectile dysfunction and contained either sildenafil or tadalafil. Tablets to fight depression and prostate-related illnesses were also seized.

Senior Superintendent Rita Li Yim-ping, head of the Customs and Excise Department’s Bureau of Trade Union Crime Investigation, said on Monday that most of the drugs were generic, but around 60,000 were counterfeit Viagra or Cialis.

“The transport has an estimated market value of HK $ 55 million. This is the largest seizure on record of controlled pharmaceutical drugs in terms of value detected by Hong Kong Customs, ”she said.

The suspects included a 27-year-old tattoo artist accused of running the Hung Hom operations center and two directors of a shell company with no history of running the business as reported. One of the directors was a 39-year-old woman from Uzbekistan and the other was a 41-year-old Russian man.

The financial investigation found that around HK $ 11 million was transferred to the tattoo artist’s bank account and HK $ 9 million was deposited into another account owned by the shell company between January 2019 and September 2021, according to Li. .

The senior superintendent said she believed the accounts were used to collect and launder money received from foreign customers for the drugs, with funds coming from countries like Bulgaria, Montenegro and Switzerland.

“But we do not rule out the possibility that the two accounts were also used to launder other proceeds of crime,” Li said.

She suggested the union was on the verge of pocketing at least half of the proceeds if it had managed to sell all of the seized drugs.

“The samples were taken to a government lab to see if the ingredients used in the seized tablets are harmful,” she said. “We are still awaiting the results of the test.”

Li said the investigation found that the imported drugs were delivered to an industrial unit in Hung Hom that served as a storage, packaging and distribution center.

“The union leader [who was not in Hong Kong] collected orders through overseas websites or apps, then instructed its Hong Kong members to send the pharmaceutical drugs to buyers around the world, ”the senior superintendent said.

Li said intelligence showed the drugs were destined for more than 20 countries around the world, such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the United States and the United States. UK.

Hong Kong Customs began investigating the union after officers at the airport’s cargo terminal intercepted packages containing around 40,000 tablets on September 28. Some of the packages were destined for Spain.

The director of the front company was arrested on September 30 after allegedly trying to send packages containing drugs from a post office in Hung Hom.

In a raid on the operations center that day, customs officials arrested a 41-year-old woman from Hong Kong and confiscated around 1.4 million tablets.

Officers then raided the office of a logistics company in Sheung Wan and seized more than 100,000 pills of controlled drugs.

On October 5, a 34-year-old man was arrested in Tsing Yi, while the tattoo artist was arrested in North Point the next day.

Last Friday, customs officials arrested the male director of the shell company at his home in Sai Kung.

The five suspects, arrested on charges including money laundering and attempting to export controlled drugs without a license, have been released on bail pending further investigation.

Senior investigator Martin Ma Wing-hong of the Customs Financial Investigation Division said the tattoo artist had a monthly income of HK $ 30,000-40,000, lived in a rented apartment and did not own any property.

“The amount of money [HK$11 million] that she received is not commensurate with her income and track record, ”he said. “We are not ruling out the possibility that the funds are the proceeds of crime.”

He said the shell company had no history of running the business and that its bank account handled large sums of money, with some of those funds coming from European countries like Switzerland and France.

“We suspect the [two directors] processed HK $ 9 million in proceeds of crime through the account, ”Ma said.

Agents from the union’s crime bureau are still investigating how long the gang operated in Hong Kong.

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