ZRP, Interpol operation nets 2 000
At least 2 000 people have been arrested countrywide during the ongoing operation by the police with back-up from Interpol and the African Union Mechanism for Police Cooperation (Afripol) targeting individuals, warehouses and other locations suspected of producing, smuggling, storing or distributing fake pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs.
The Pan-African police operation Codenamed “Flash-IPPA” (Illicit Pharmaceutical Products in Africa), jointly coordinated by Interpol and Afripol has identified hundreds of suspects and resulted in seizures of more than 12 million illicit health products.
The operation has brought together law enforcement and drug regulatory agencies from 20 African countries to dismantle the organised crime networks behind regional pharmaceutical crime.
Participating countries are Zimbabwe, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Central African Republic, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Libya, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sudan, Togo, Uganda and South Africa.
With organised crime groups frequently engaging in multiple crime areas simultaneously, the operation also saw the seizure of cocaine, cannabis, khat, crystal meth, counterfeit foods, oils, beverages and cigarettes.
The operation also comes after the Zimbabwe Republic Police has reported that from February 28 to March 6, this year, 82 suspects were also arrested countrywide under operation ‘No to Crystal Meth’.
About 41,3g of crystal meth, 5 837kg of heroin, 1 767kg of dagga and 55x100ml of Broncleer bottles all worth $1 961 530 were recovered.
Interpol’s support programme for the African Union assists Afripol in developing its operational functions across the continent and in fighting transnational crime.
Ahead of the operation, using globally sourced regional data shared via Interpol’s secure global police communications network, I-24/7, countries were able to target crime networks producing and distributing illegal pharmaceuticals across Africa.
About two million illicit anti convulsing tablets, 300 000 other epilepsy treatment tablets, 1 600 rapid Covid-19 tests and more than 208 000 Covid-19 protection masks have been recovered.
The operation’s most commonly seized illicit medicines included antibiotics, anti- inflammatories, analgesics and medication used to correct erectile dysfunction, rheumatism and epilepsy.
With the pandemic creating unique crime opportunities for organized crime networks to introduce fake medical products into legal markets, officers were on the lookout in particular for Covid-19-related vaccines, medicines and medical devices.
West African operations revealed the use of counterfeit Covid-19 vaccination certificates in several countries, whilst East African operations saw the use of unregulated and unlawful distribution and sale of genuine Covid-19 vaccines.
Interpol’s secretary General Dr Jürgen Stock said: “Covid-19 has created a parallel crime pandemic and this operation shows how criminals are continuing to take advantage of this health crisis in order to maximise their illicit profits. “Addressing regional needs is a key part of Interpol’s global response to crime and our aim here is clear; to build stronger, meaningful capabilities for African law enforcement through our partnership with Afripol.”
Benin police authorities seized more than 27 tonnes of a wide range of fake medicines during one raid, triggering regional and global investigations.
Investigations across Libya resulted in the seizure of more than 11.5 million painkiller and infantile epilepsy tablets.
One raid in Niger saw the seizure of more than 300,000 epilepsy tablets.
Zimbabwean police authorities arrested more than 2,000 individuals during its nationwide leg of Operation Flash-IPPA. Front-line officers in Algeria carried out more than 90 searches and inspections at strategic locations suspected of producing and distributing illicit pharmaceuticals.
Shaping a coordinated response in African law enforcement operations.
“The results of Operation Flash-IPPA are testimony to the strength of Afripol- Interpol collaboration, and the importance of Interpol support in boosting Afripol’s position as the lead African institution for preventing and combating transnational organized crime, terrorism and cybercrime,” said Afripol executive director Dr Tarek Sharif.
“Operation Flash-IPPA will boost Afripol’s intelligence collection for subsequent use in member state investigative collaboration,” added Dr Sharif.
Ongoing analysis of Flash-IPPA seizures and arrests in Africa is triggering associated investigations in all continents linked to pharmaceutical crime groups operating in Africa. Herald.