Cyprus took part in Europol’s Viribus lll campaign against counterfeit medicine and doping substances– the largest action of this kind ever.
Thirty-three countries, INTERPOL, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) joined forces in a massive crackdown on the trafficking of doping substances and counterfeit medicines. The operation was led by the Italian NAS Carabinieri and co-led by the Financial Unit of the Hellenic Police.
Cyprus’ participation involved police, the Pharmaceutical Services and the Customs Department and was coordinated by the police office against copyright theft.
A total of 14 searches were carried out throughout Cyprus during which 263,000 mg and 30 tablets of cannabis oil were discovered and confiscated. Also found and confiscated were 1878 doping substances and 3761 fake pharmaceuticals.
One person was arrested.
At European level nine underground labs were detected and closed in European countries and almost 24 tons of raw steroid powder were seized.
A total of 3.8 million doping substances and counterfeit medicines were sized (seizures included doping substances, dietary supplements, medicines and sport and food supplements) and 234 suspects arrested.
Seventeen organised crime groups involved in the trafficking of counterfeit medicines and doping materials were dismantled. A total of 839 judicial cases were opened and almost 1000 individuals were charged with the production, commerce or use of doping substances.
Operation Viribus also focused on doping checks during sports events, 1 357 checks (blood and urine tests) have been carried out in some of the participating countries.
Doping checks are a routine procedure for any athlete taking part in competitions. The tests usually take place at the end of the competitions (in-competition checks) or during training or friendly games (out-of-competition checks).
Europol said that the latest trends detected during the operation are:
- wholesalers are importing huge amounts of steroids to feed the illegal market;
- non-professional athletes, bikers and body-builders are buying small parcels of steroids, mainly from Asia or eastern Europe to traffic them to gyms-;
- increased use of social media for advertisement, promotion and sale of anabolic products;
- small organised crime groups are investing in illegal labs and selling the doping substances;
- continuous growth of unauthorised and unregulated online pharmacies, also on the dark-web;
- a larger use of rechargeable credit cards and cryptocurrencies to perform transactions
Europol deployed five experts and mobile offices to Hungary and Spain to crosscheck in real-time the data gathered during the course of the operation and provide forensic support.
Experts from Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3), funded by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), also supported the activities through open source intelligence reports on websites and accounts trafficking doping materials.
The pharmaceutical industry cooperated providing intelligence through the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI).
Europol supported the operational activities with several coordination, strategic and operational meetings. A Viribus workshop was held in Budapest, Hungary on May 27-28 May to strengthen the joint response of law enforcement authorities, national anti-doping agencies, Eurojust, Europol and WADA to the trafficking in doping substances.
The following countries participated in Operation Viribus: 23 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, the United Kingdom) and 10 third-party countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Iceland, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Switzerland, Ukraine and the USA).