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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

712,000 counterfeit and illicit online prescription medicines seized in one week in NI

Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary, Department of Justice; Andy Hill, Detective Chief Superintendent, Police Service of Northern Ireland and Peter May, Permanent Secretary, Department of Health.

Pictured with drug seizures (L-R) are Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary, Department of Justice; Andy Hill, Detective Chief Superintendent, Police Service of Northern Ireland and Peter May, Permanent Secretary, Department of Health.

Issued on behalf of The Organised Crime Task Force

712,000 illegal and unlicensed tablets and medicines destined for addresses throughout Northern Ireland have been seized as part of an international operation. 

During Operation Pangea XVI multiple packages of tablets, with a street value of approximately £785,000 were intercepted. The Operation took place in a specific week of action and is aimed at disrupting the illicit online supply of medicines as well as raising awareness of the significant health risks associated with buying medicines from illegal websites.

Partnership working between law enforcement agencies and government departments resulted in seized medicines including Zopiclone, Pregabalin and alprazolam (Xanax). Other prescription medicines recovered included Diazepam, botox and weight-loss products.

Richard Pengelly CB, Permanent Secretary. Department of Justice said:

“The Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) drugs sub group members have worked in partnership to remove illicit medicines from reaching addresses in Northern Ireland. The drugs that have been removed from circulation means our communities are safer places today.

“Making profit out of misery will not go unchallenged. Every successful operation has the potential to save lives. I very much welcome the outcome of this year’s Operation Pangea XVI and fully support all the partners in their efforts to tackle crime, to seize goods and criminal assets and protect public health.”

Peter May, Permanent Secretary, Department of Health said: 

“Participation in Operation Pangea is an important part of our continuing efforts to reduce the harm that can be caused by illicit drugs and unregulated or counterfeit medicines. I welcome the successful interception of these illicit products.

“The risks of obtaining potentially harmful fake or substandard medicines, without knowing where the tablets have originated or what they really contain, is greatly increased where the normal, regulated system is bypassed. Illegal suppliers have no quality control or legal standards to abide by. 

“I would urge the public not to be tempted by what look like cut prices or professional looking websites offering medicines without prescription.”

Speaking about the operation, Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Hill, who heads the Police Service’s Organised Crime Branch, said:

“Operation Pangea is a largescale international effort to disrupt the online sale of counterfeit and unlawful prescription drugs. It’s an intensified focus, over a set week, which involves the collective efforts of many partners. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Organised Crime Task Force, the operation has resulted in over 700,000 illicit tablets being seized, with a street value of approximately £785,000 and 12 people arrested. This action has undoubtedly reduced the inevitable harm to people in our communities.

“The figures are a welcome reflection of tremendous collective efforts. They’re also, however, a worrying sign of the reality – and that’s the demand for, and misuse of, prescription drugs.

“We will continue to work tirelessly to tackle every aspect of drug supply and misuse across the country. We’ll continue to work with partners at a local, national and international level to target suppliers and supply lines, and to disrupt the activities of individuals and organised crime groups.

“It’s a vicious cycle that we need to collectively break, and we all have a part to play. If you have information, or concerns, about the illegal use or supply of drugs please contact us on 101.”

Darren Brabon, Assistant Director, Border Force said: 

“The excellent work of Border Force and our partners in the Organised Crime Task Force has led to the seizure of this substantial amount of unlicensed medicines. Through this fine example of joint working, these illicit medicines won’t reach our streets and our communities remain protected.

“Border Force works round the clock to intercept drug supply chains and will continue working closely with our counterparts to identify and prevent the new methods criminals take to smuggling illegal drugs and substances, in or out of the UK.”

In just one week, hundreds of thousands of tablets were seized.  Take a look at a short video here:

The OCTF was established in 2000 and works to reduce the harm caused by organised crime, through multi agency partnership and to secure a safe community in Northern Ireland, where we respect the law and each other.


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