In two investigations carried out in parallel
The National Police dismantles the infrastructure of the main websites dedicated to the illegal sale and distribution of medicines in Spain
§ The agents have detained 33 people and have made 17 searches in different municipalities in the provinces of Alicante, Murcia, Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona, Seville, Zaragoza, Castellón, Palma de Mallorca, Valladolid and Valencia
§ Two organizations have been dismantled that, using advanced technological means, obtained great benefits with little risk – exceeding three million euros – and laundered profits in various ways, among others, buying virtual currency
§ In the records, the agents have intervened more than 70,000 tablets / gels of drugs against erectile dysfunction, various narcotic substances – GH liquid, MDMA, cocaine, popper-, hundreds of computer articles and numerous jewelry of great value, among other things
June 28, 2020.- Agents of the National Police, in the framework of two parallel investigations, have dismantled the infrastructure of the main websites allegedly dedicated to the illegal sale and distribution of medicines in Spain. In addition, they have detained 33 people and made 17 searches in different municipalities in the provinces of Alicante (1), Murcia (2), Madrid (3), Malaga (3), Barcelona (1), Seville (2), Zaragoza (1), Castellón (1), Palma de Mallorca (1), Valladolid (1) and Valencia (1). The two dismantled organizations operated using advanced technological means and obtained great benefits with little risk – exceeding three million euros -, later laundering the profits in different ways, among others, buying virtual currency. Also, and as a result of the records, the agents have intervened more than 70,000 tablets / gels of drugs against erectile dysfunction, various narcotic substances –GH liquid, MDMA, cocaine, popper-, hundreds of computer articles and numerous jewels of great value, among other things.
The investigation began in May 2019 when the agents detected the activities of these web portals for the sale of medicines throughout Spain, with the consequent risk to health. Although initially their persecution was difficult, since most of the operations were carried out against reimbursement – which prevented the physical location of the investigated ones -, after several police efforts, the agents identified two criminal organizations. The first of them was based in Murcia, Madrid and Alicante, while the second, of English origin, operated from the Costa del Sol. Both used computer experts and used advanced technological means in order to, on the one hand, favor the execution of the crime and achieve impunity for its members, while increasing the number of buyers; and on the other, to hinder the police investigation by adopting strong security measures. In this sense, they made use of instant messaging applications that had encryption and message deletion methods. In addition, they used VPN connections to make it difficult to locate them by IPs, and they hosted their virtual pharmacy web pages on offshore servers, located in countries outside the European or US jurisdiction.
On the other hand, research has proven the great benefits they obtained with little risk. The profits acquired from the sale of illegal medicines exceed three million euros, since their purchase represents just a few cents per tablet in Southeast Asian countries (mainly India) and their unit sale is around 4.5 euros, which may be even higher depending on the product, the quantity or the place of sale. Furthermore, it is an activity punishable by penalties much lower than drug trafficking, making it a very attractive activity for criminal organizations.
Lastly, they laundered the benefits obtained in different ways, including buying virtual currency through exchange companies or moving cash outside our borders. They also had bank accounts in countries like Cyprus or Andorra, and operated through bank transfers with concepts that tried to mask the illicit benefits. Another method they used to launder money consisted of buying high-end vehicles in Germany or reserving luxury items that they did not ultimately purchase, requesting a return by transfer under the pretext of not residing in the country.
An organization based in Murcia, Alicante and Madrid
After months of police investigations, investigators identified a criminal organization based in the provinces of Murcia, Alicante and Madrid. It had an infrastructure and logistics, created for this purpose, dedicated to the import, storage, illicit sale -through the Internet- and distribution of illegal drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. For this, it used different parcel companies that colluded with the organization, thus obtaining great benefits.
The investigation proved that it was a perfectly structured organization, made up of citizens from different countries, such as Spain, India, Venezuela, Colombia, the United Kingdom or China, among others. On the one hand, the drugs would have their origin in India, where they were imported from by the leader of the organization. Later they were introduced in Spain using Singapore and the United Kingdom as transit countries. Another important member of the network was in charge of the online monitoring of the shipments so that, once they were introduced in our country, they would manage with the parcel delivery companies the delivery of the same, providing fictitious destination and contact addresses. Next, they delivered the shipments to another person in the organization for storage and custody in a garage located in the province of Murcia. The latter sent the clients' requests through the different web pages that the organization managed using the names of different people -all of them belonging to the criminal organization- who agreed to appear as senders in exchange for a financial consideration. Diversifying shipments between different senders was a security measure to prevent huge amounts of orders from being reported to the same person, whose subsequent collection could raise suspicions.
The orders were managed through three web pages managed by a computer scientist based in the town of Alfaz del Pi (Alicante) and were paid by the final buyers in cash on delivery. To launder the benefits obtained, the organization used various methods, among which the purchase of virtual currency stands out. In addition, the investigated made use of advanced technological means, in such a way that the communications between them, regarding the illegal sale of medicines or money laundering, were produced through encrypted applications or using security measures to mask the IP. of connection.
Another organization based in Marbella (Málaga)
In parallel, the agents carried out the investigation of another criminal organization made up of septuagenarian citizens of British and American origin with a police record for similar events. Members of the network had web pages that functioned as virtual pharmacies and were hosted on offshore servers outside the European and US jurisdiction. Likewise, they recurrently changed their website as an additional security measure, informing their customers through commercial emails.
Research has shown that this organization has been shipping medications since 2012, having gradually increased their volume over the years. The distribution began through the use of data from a fictitious company, although in recent months it was carried out from the home of one of the members of the organization, located on an isolated farm in the province of Malaga.
Orders were distributed through parcel companies and customers made cash on delivery, through different payment gateways, or even by bank transfer, indicating, in this case, concepts that had nothing to do with the content of the packages. Later, the millionaire benefits obtained were transferred to foreign accounts, which made their traceability and location difficult.
Finally, the agents identified their members thanks to their technological tracking. Likewise, they found that this organization functioned as a "supplier of distributors", since they had clients throughout the national territory whose volume of purchases and circumstances evidenced that they were not final buyers. This is the case of some sexshop-type establishments, where different police records were carried out, dedicated to reselling these drugs.
33 detainees and 7 records in different Spanish provinces
Finally, the agents arrested 33 people and made 17 searches in different municipalities in the Spanish geography, specifically in Alicante (1), Murcia (2), Madrid (3), Malaga (3), Barcelona (1), Seville (2 ), Zaragoza (1), Castellón (1), Palma de Mallorca (1), Valladolid (1) and Valencia (1). As a result of these records, the researchers intervened more than 70,000 tablets / gels of medicines against erectile dysfunction, various narcotic substances (GH liquid, MDMA, cocaine, popper, etc.), hundreds of computer items (computers, USB, mobile phones, tablets and web servers), 33,120 euros in cash and more than 40 jewels of great value, among which are 3 high-end watches.
The consumption of these drugs, and more specifically that of those intended to treat erectile dysfunction, which are introduced in Spain without any sanitary control, as well as their consumption without health supervision, represents a serious health risk for two main reasons. Firstly, they do not pass the controls of the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products, since they have not undergone any type of control that ensures their composition or quality to be consumed. In addition, these are medications that require a prescription, since they cannot be consumed by any patient (for example, people with heart disease) and can also cause interactions with other medications. According to the own reports issued by the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products on the analysis of these medicines, they represent a serious attack on public health and their use entails exposing the subject who receives them to risks that are not justifiable from a health point of view.