Police from 27 countries have taken part in a Europe-wide action against drugs trafficking and doping in sport, leading to a haul worth €73 million.
The operation took place between March and September this year, led by police in Finland, France, Greece and Italy and involving 19 EU member states including Belgium, and eight third party countries. It was coordinated by Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency.
In the end, the operation had broken up 25 criminal gangs, arrested 667 people and seized a wide range of pharmaceutical products, including large amounts of anti-cancer drugs, erectile dysfunction medicines, pseudoephedrine, various doping substances such as hormone and metabolic regulators, painkillers, anti-oestrogens, antivirals, hypnotics, antihistamines and anxiolytics.
Given the period involved, some of the products were Covid-related. Those include 33 million medical devices like face masks, tests, diagnosis kits; eight tonnes of raw materials, chemicals and antivirals and 70,000 litres of sanitisers.
Even for a six-month operation involving 27 countries, the statistics are impressive:
• Seizures worth nearly €73 million • More than 25 million units of medicines and doping substances • 667 suspects arrested • 1,282 individuals reported to judicial authorities • 25 organised crime groups dismantled • 10 clandestine laboratories shut down • 453 websites taken offline • 4,009 websites monitored • 95 judicial cases opened, 29 for doping and 66 for medicines offences • 536 doping inspections performed, 148 in competition and 388 out of competition • 247 athletes tested in competition, of whom 13 tested positive • 403 athletes tested out of competition, of whom four tested positive.
“We have seen with the current COVID-19 crisis that criminals have no problem in abusing people’s fears. Criminals always look for new opportunities to make a profit and it is always on the back of the citizens,” said Catherine De Bolle, former Belgian federal police chief, now executive director of Europol.
“Counterfeit and misused medicines are a growing threat not only because they generate large illegal profits, but because they also represent a serious risk to public health. We can only combat this global danger together. With 25 million potentially dangerous units of medicines and doping substances seized and nearly 700 suspects arrested, Operation Shield has shown the importance of law enforcement cooperation in protecting the health and well-being of EU citizens.”