Africa In Focus

Africa In Focus: "The mainstream thinking now is that Africa is different and we could get it right if we want. The choice is fully ours, and it is now time for us to define what we want."

African Development Bank (AFDB) President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

WCO Seize Illicit Drugs in 16 African countries

In an operation carried out by customs inspectors in 16 ports from July 11 to 20,  called “Vice Grips 2”, 80 million doses of contraband drugs worth $ 40million have been seized in sixteen African countries by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) with the biggest hauls made in Angola, Cameroon, Ghana and Togo.

The illegal doses impounded by customs officers who searched containers in the 16 countries’ ports include anti-malarial and anti-parasitic drugs, antibiotics, cough syrups, contraceptive pills and infertility treatments.

The operation was put together by WCO in partnership with the Institute of Research against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM). Sixteen African nations joined the search team. The countries include Ghana, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Togo.

 “The operation was conducted simultaneously at 16 major seaports on the East and West coasts of Africa from July 11 to 20, 2012, leading to the seizure of more than 100 million counterfeit products of all categories. Of a total number of 110 maritime containers inspected by teams of Customs officials, 84 were found to contain counterfeit or illicit products, with the biggest shipments being discovered in Angola, Togo, Cameroon and Ghana,” WCO said.

"It is the biggest operation of its kind," Christophe Zimmermann, in charge of anti-counterfeit operations at the WCO, said at a press conference in Paris.

Illegal medications are a growing problem in Africa, as they may be toxic or fail to have a sufficient dose of active ingredient to combat a disease, Zimmermann and others said.

It was reported that most of the illicit drugs came from East and South Asia -- particularly China -- and the Middle East, notably Dubai.

Inspectors helped by a French anti-counterfeit agency searched 110 shipping containers, 84 of which were found to have illegal or fake medications.

Custom Inspectors also found 33 million doses of fake medications, along with pornographic DVDs, which had been stashed deep inside a batch of loudspeakers that were being exported to Angola. None of the "drugs" had any active ingredient.

In Togo, a smuggled batch of expectorant cough syrup, supposed to be kept at a cool, stable temperature of -2 to +4 degrees Celsius (28-39 degrees Fahrenheit), was literally cooking in a container where the temperature was more than 50 C (122 F).

"Africa is now being used as a rubbish tip, and this directly affects consumer health and safety," Zimmermann said.

"We are dealing with structured organisations that specialise in international fraud, which exploit globalisation in operations that span continents and countries, using different forms of transport."

Meanwhile, WCO secretary general, Kunio Mikuriya said additional operations would be staged in Africa over the next six months to maintain momentum on the drug fakers.
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