According to a report by welt.de, organized criminals cut huge profits by smuggling counterfeit drugs into Germany.
Unlike “traditional drugs”, counterfeit pills are quite easy to smuggle and can be sold for high prices, the report says. However, German authorities are allegedly planning a two-step action to create a barrier for this new trade.
Currently, a criminal gang is standing before Potsdam Court for smuggling counterfeit drugs from Asia to Germany. Court heard that the suspects earned about 21 million Euros during a three-year period. The case has been going on for almost two years since the network the gang created is elaborate. They used highly trained smugglers and created fake companies worldwide. The criminals set up about 1,000 internet based webshops where they advertised their fake products. Luckily for the customers, most of the pills did not contain any active ingredients.
There was a similar instance in Essen where the suspects had a contact in India. The Indian pressed the pills in dubious garage factories in his country and sent the counterfeit drugs to Germany. The gang members included a system administrator while the others participated in the packaging and the shipment of the products. They made a damage worth 14 millions of Euros and they allegedly had so many profits that they could “afford a life of excitement”.
“Criminals like these live on a large scale and show what they have,” said investigator Peter W. from local police in the Ruhr area. “But with this lifestyle they often lead investigators on their tracks. Luxury cars are, of course, a big mistake, because not infrequently offenders are revealed by envious neighbors.”
Counterfeit pills usually come from dubious factories in Asia, they arrive by air in Germany and are distributed through online shops. The drugs are sold for a much higher price than in legit pharmaceutical shops. Only pill makers in Asia who know what active ingredients are in the tablets. The buyers clearly do not ask any questions since they want to remain anonymous in such deals.
The 2015 Customs Press Conference in April revealed that almost four million pills were seized by German customs in 2015, four times as many as in the previous year.
“It is madness, you get every shit on the internet. People do not know what they are buying,” Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) had commented on the case.
Criminal law Professor Arndt Sinn, who is currently researching such cases at the University of Osnabrück, has an answer why the counterfeit drug business is booming.
“Why should I kill myself as a criminal with dangerous drug stores, if the profit margins for counterfeit drugs are much bigger?” he asks. “From one kilo of raw cocaine worth 1000 euros you can make 45,000 euros, from one kilo of Viagra active ingredient Sildenafil, which is sold for 50 euros, you can easily earn 90,000 euros.”
According to Sinn, the basic materials or the exact pills are easy to get from the clearnet or from dark net markets. They usually are shipped by air mail to Leipzig and Frankfurt to German criminals.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 15 percent of all medicines are suspected of being fake. The situation is the worst in specific regions of Africa and Asia. At the Customs Office in Germany, there are specialists in the field of medicines coping with the current situation.
“The biggest problem is the so-called lifestyle area, which includes anabolic steroids, hair growth means, potency or slimming products. This area accounts for 95 percent of our cases. ‘Beautiful, harder, slimmer’ is the motto “, says Christian Schüttenkopf, press officer of the General Directorate.
The largest share of counterfeit pills come from China, India, and Bangladesh.
“From ten parcels, five pass through the customs. The attempt does not cost the perpetrators anything, “says investigator Peter W. “The parcels that come through bring money to criminals.”