Authorities in 92 countries shut down 113,000 websites and online marketplaces selling counterfeit or illegal medicines and medical products.
These include large quantities of fake COVID19 tests and face masks, according to the International Criminal Police Organization, also known as Interpol.
“As the pandemic forced more people to move their lives online, criminals were quick to target these new ‘customers’,” Jurgen Stock, secretary-general of the international police agency, said in a statement.
Over half of all medical devices seized from May 18 to 25 were unlicensed COVID-19 testing kits, according to the agency, while Italian authorities discovered over 500,000 fake surgical masks and 35 machines for their production and packaging.
Globally, police detained 227 people and recovered pharmaceutical items worth $23 million.
“Whilst some individuals were knowingly buying illicit medicines, many thousands of victims were unwittingly putting their health and potentially their lives at risk,” Stock said.
Fake and illegal substances were also discovered hidden in clothing, jewellery, toys, and food shipments.
Since INTERPOL began coordinating fake medication campaigns, known as Pangea operations, in 2008, the total number of devices and pharmaceuticals confiscated has risen to around nine million.
Recall that, the Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. General Mohammed Buba Marwa (Rtd) says the agency has seized over 2,000 tonnes of illicit drugs worth over N90 billion between January and now.
The NDLEA boss warned against moves by some stakeholders to push for the legalization of cannabis in Nigeria, insisting that it will rob the country of the gains so far made in the renewed war against drug abuse and trafficking in the country.
Noting that there is a strong link between drug misuse and security concerns across the country, Marwa argued that if cannabis is legalized, Nigeria will become a nation of drug addicts and criminals.