Detectives from the TM Eye Illicit Pharmaceutical Team have smashed a global gang selling counterfeit anti malaria tablets in Chennai, India.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Malaria Report 2017, nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria. In 2016, 91 countries reported a total of 216 million cases of malaria, an increase of 5 million cases over the previous year. The global number of malaria deaths reached 445,000, about the same number of deaths reported in 2015. Many of these deaths are caused by the unknowing use of counterfeit anti malaria drugs.
Africa continues to account for about 90% of malaria cases and deaths worldwide. Fifteen countries – all but one in Sub-Saharan Africa – carry 80% of the global malaria burden. Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo accounted for more than 35% of global malaria deaths in 2015. Those most at risk of death include young children and the elderly.
The TM Eye Illicit Pharmaceutical Team commenced an intelligence gathering operation on behalf of a client in 2018. India was identified as a source country for the unlawful manufacture and sale of anti malaria tablets. Following information regarding an organised criminal network involved in the manufacture and sale of the anti malaria drug, a covert operation (3069-RM-19) was mounted by the team working with detectives from TM Eye, India. Initial deployments and surveillance were undertaken in Delhi in the north of India. The operation progressed to Chennai, some 1,400 miles south, and identified a number of gang members including a middle tier principal known ‘Sharavan’ who claimed to be able to manufacture and supply large quantities of the fake drug.
Detectives from the Illicit Pharmaceutical Team travelled to Chennai and working with the TM Eye India surveillance team kept ‘Sharavan’ under close surveillance. His home address was identified.
On Wednesday 24 April 2019, ‘Sharavan’ was seen leaving his home address carrying a large box. He was followed to the Sriperumbudur Entrance Arch on the Sriperumbudur – Chennai Highway, Chennai where he met another male. During the course of the meeting, Sharavan was arrested by the Indian Police. In Sharavan’s possession was a large box containing 2,000 boxes of counterfeit anti malarial drugs.
TM Eye, assisted by the Indian Police, searched the premises used by Sharavan, identified as part of the TM Eye surveillance operation. A further 1,000 boxes of the drug were recovered. Sharavan has been charged and remanded in custody.
TM Eye Director David McKelvey said,”The work of TM Eye’s Illicit Pharmaceutical Team is daily saving lives across the World. The team are dedicated professionals operating across the globe, often in highly dangerous and difficult conditions. They often deploy at short notice to support law enforcement across the globe.
Our team in India are at the fore front of the fight against the manufacture and global supply of fake ‘life saving’ medicines in a trade that dwarfs the Cocaine and Heroin trade combined. It is extremely sophisticated and organised criminality estimated to be worth in excess of $300 billion. There is little enforcement activity.
The two teams co operate to identify and then catch and convict those involved. TM Eye has built a leading intelligence capability and deploy cutting edge policing tactics to build evidential cases to prosecute the criminals involved.
This TM Eye covert operation involved operational activity and surveillance across two Indian cities, Delhi and Chennai, some 1,400 miles apart. The end destination for the fake goods was likely sub Saharan Africa where lives would be at risk.
These counterfeits either kill the victim outright or fail to impact on the malaria illness causing death. Their use where an active ingredient exists reduces the capability of the genuine drug to tackle the illness and actually allows the disease to adapt to minimise the genuine drugs effectiveness.
Sharavan is now in custody and will be prosecuted. The rest of the gang remain under investigation.”