More than 420 tonnes of counterfeit medicines and medical products have been seized by INTERPOL in an operation in West Africa called Operation Heera.
Operation Heera was carried out between May 15 – June 17 and involved more than 1,150 law enforcement officials from police, customs, and health regulatory agencies in seven countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Togo.
With the goal of dismantling illicit factories and supply chains, Operation Heera involved raids on markets, shops, pharmacies, warehouses, vehicles and illicit factories. leading to the seizure of more than 41 million pills and 13,000 cartons of illicit pharmaceutical and medical goods worth approximately USD 21.8 million. In addition, as part of the operation, some 150 people were either arrested or placed under investigation.
Some of the seized goods included health supplements, herbal products, analgesics, antibiotics, antimalarial medicine, vitamins, mineral supplements, as well as printing and packaging equipment.
“Initiatives such as Operation Heera not only aim to protect the public from potentially unsafe goods, they also help to dismantle illegal networks which are often connected to other forms of serious crime,” said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Tim Morris.
In Benin Republic, over 100 tonnes of illicit medicines concealed in trucks carrying fruit were seized. The trucks allegedly originated from Guinea and were destined for countries throughout the region.
“The police in Benin is committed to fighting illicit trade because of the dangers this type of crime poses to consumers and the need to identify and disrupt the criminal groups behind it. Our country encourages and supports the efforts of INTERPOL in fighting organized crime through initiatives such as Operation Heera,” said the Head of the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Benin, Médard Woudecon.
Inter-agency collaborative operations such as these are continuing to yield successful outcomes. Earlier this year, the International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicine (IRACM) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) announced the seizure of 113 million potentially dangerous pharmaceutical products in 16 African countries over a span of 10 days.