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China, US smash Viagra counterfeiting case
(AFP)
Updated: 2005-09-08 15:34

BEIJING - China and the United States have cracked a major counterfeiting case involving pharmaceuticals sold on the Internet in 11 countries, describing cooperation as the key to success in fighting piracy.

Huge amounts of fake medicine, including Viagra, with a retail value of millions of US dollars were recently seized at five facilities in China, officials said at a joint press conference.

The drugs were marketed online in countries including the United States, Britain and Israel, officials said. It was not immediately clear whether consumers bought the drugs and were harmed, they said.

Eleven Chinese and one American were arrested, mostly in the last two weeks, said Andy Yu, the attache of the US Department of Homeland Security's Beijing-based immigration and custom enforcement office.

"In terms of the number of arrests and seizures, I believe this is one of our (the United States') most significant investigations involving counterfeit products," Yu told reporters after the news briefing.

The American arrested was identified as Richard Cowley, who was taken into custody on September 2 in the state of Washington.

The Chinese suspects were arrested in the northern city of Tianjin and the central province of Henan. Officials indicated more arrests could be made pending the ongoing investigation.

Other drugs pirated included sex-enhancing drugs Cialis, manufactured by Eli Lilly, and Levitra by Bayer, as well as Lipitur, a cholesterol-reducing drug.

Samples of the pirated drugs were displayed at the briefing. The packaging of Viagra tablets looked identical to the real thing and had the tiny logo of the manufacturer Pfizer on it.

The operation marked the second time US-China joint anti-piracy efforts have resulted in arrests.

Two Americans were jailed in April for up to two-and-a-half years in Shanghai for selling pirated DVDs on the Internet.

Along with two Chinese nationals, they were accused of running an operation that sold some 180,000 movie and music discs worth more than seven million yuan (863,000 dollars), via US-based commercial website eBay.com and Russian-based threedollardvd.com.

Gao Feng, deputy chief of the Chinese Public Security Bureau's economic crime investigation bureau, said Thursday that more joint efforts will be made to combat piracy in China.

"I believe this is not the end but the beginning. We have confidence in overcoming this problem," Gao said.



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