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China, US police crack counterfeit drug case
By Guo Nei (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-09-09 05:56

Chinese and US police have jointly uncovered a major counterfeit medicine scheme, a Chinese official said yesterday at a news briefing. The scheme spanned 11 countries and involved millions of dollars worth of bogus drugs. 11 Chinese were arrested, along with one American.

Altogether 440,000 counterfeit pills, valued at more than 40 million yuan (US$4.3 million), were seized in the co-operation effort between August 28 and September 2, said Gao Feng, a spokesperson for the Public Security Ministry.

The fake drugs included the male sexual dysfunction drugs Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, as well as the cholesterol drug Lipitor, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Li Wenhui and American Richard Cowley, the primary suspects, have been arrested in Tianjin, North China, and the US state of Washington respectively.

Li began selling bogus drugs online in March last year under the false names of Wang Daijun and David Wang. Quickly he came into contact with Cowley through the Internet, and became the American's main supplier, mailing him the drugs and helping him with online sales to buyers in countries such as the US, Britain and Switzerland.

Chinese police said the investigation began in September 2004 when Pfizer, a leading US-based pharmaceutical company, tipped them off that Li was trading fake Viagra to the US and the UK via mail.

No information was provided about how Pfizer discovered the counterfeit drugs.

"In terms of the amount of arrests and seizures, I believe this is probably one of our most significant investigations involving counterfeit pharmaceuticals," Andy Yu, a Beijing-based customs attache with the US Department of Homeland Security, was quoted by AP as saying.

The two police forces also discovered 14 drug manufacturing machines and 260 kilograms of semi-finished fakes and raw materials, which would have produced another 4 million bogus pills.

It is the second successful joint investigation by China and the United States in combating intellectual property rights violations.

The first collaboration was in July last year, when they jointly cracked a counterfeit DVD scheme, which involved 210,000 pirated discs, worth about US$31,000. Six people were arrested, including two Americans.

(China Daily 09/09/2005 page2)

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