November 6, 2023: Operation Pangea XVI intercepts $7mm in illicit medicines

Major Stories

Interpol announced the results of Operation Pangea XVI. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported on pill press seizures.  

Operation Pangea’s annual initiative to disrupt the international market in illicit medicines ran between October 3 and 10 this year. In its 16th year, law enforcement and regulators in 86 participating countries arrested 72 suspects, opened 325 new investigations, shut down more than 1,300 criminal websites and seized $7 million in potentially dangerous medicines. Among these were 9,000 bottles of suspected counterfeit cough medicine in Mozambique, 11,000 suspicious COVID-19 test kits in Australia, 700,000 tablets of counterfeit or unapproved sedatives, painkillers, Botox and weight loss products in Northern Ireland.

During Operation Artemis, a four-month initiative that ended in September, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 142 pill presses, 325 pill molds, more than 270 pounds of fentanyl pills and powder, and over 13,000 pounds of fentanyl precursor chemicals.

Items seized by U.S. CBP during Operation Pangea XVI (Interpol) 

International News

Two kinds of semaglutide counterfeits seized in Belgium. Additional news in Indonesia and China.

Belgium joined the list of countries worldwide that have found counterfeit semaglutide pens, One package was filled with insulin; the contents of the other counterfeit were not disclosed.

Four executives of Afi Farma, which manufactured cough syrup contaminated with ethylene glycol that killed more than 200 Indonesian children, received two-year prison sentences and were fined the equivalent of $64,000.

Law enforcement in China dismantled a ring selling fake traditional medicine across 20 Chinese provinces. They shut down 18 fake drug factories and warehouses and seized more than 500,000 boxes of finished and semi-finished medicine.

Domestic News

A Florida woman who sold illegally imported cosmetic injectables was sentenced. CBP in Ohio reported on seizures of pill presses and pill press parts.

A screenshot from Sievert's website in 2022. (Wayback Machine)

Marina Sievert of Dunedin, Florida received a two-year prison sentence and a $20,000 fine for illegally importing and distributing the Korean cosmetic injectables Innotox Medytox and Meditoxin, which contain botulinum toxin type A. Sievert falsely told customers of her business, Beauty Forever Florida, Inc., that the drugs were “FDA approved,” had “cleared customs,” and had “guaranteed authenticity.”

Arizona-based Centera Bioscience and its CEO, Paul Eftang pleaded guilty to the introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. Eftang sold unapproved pharmaceuticals, including tianeptine, adrafinil, phenibut, and racetams, on and other online platforms to customers across the United States.

CBP at the Port of Cincinnati announced that it had intercepted 60 shipments that contained 22 pill presses and 257 pill press parts between January 1 and October 30, 2023.