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29 July 2009 - Media release

Counterfeit medical products seized in Lesotho INTERPOL-supported operation

MASERU, Lesotho - A police operation against counterfeit medical products in Lesotho which included both training and operational support by INTERPOL has led to the seizure of essential medicines which should be sold under medical prescription but which were found to be illegally repackaged and then sold on the streets.

Operation Fiela, meaning ‘clean up’, has been evaluated and the assessment has now confirmed that both counterfeit and illicit steroids, antibiotics, antifungal products and oral contraceptives were seized during the five-day (15-20 June) operation which was part of INTERPOL’s Intellectual Property Rights OASIS (Operational Assistance, Services and Infrastructure Support) Programme in Africa.

During the operation, INTERPOL provided training to 45 officers from the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, Drug Regulatory Authority and Customs Service. The training included the presence of the Head of the Counterfeit Unit from the South African Police Service, INTERPOL Regional Bureau liaison officers, as well as representatives from the private sector from Lesotho and the African region.

Lesotho Police, working together with Drug Regulatory Authorities and Customs, inspected more than 50 suspected premises including pharmacies and supermarkets, in the capital city Maseru and two other regions, Mefeteng in the South and Leribe in the North, resulting in the closure of eight outlets because of irregularities or because they did not have the authority to sell essential medicines.

With counterfeit medical products posing a major risk to public health, the Head of Training of Lesotho Mounted Police Service, Tumelo Moseme, said that Operation Fiela ‘gave the police trainees knowledge and skills’ to face the new policing challenges posed by these products.

“INTERPOL as the mother body for police organizations globally provides assistance to its member states in the form of essential information sharing through the use of INTERPOL’s I-24/7 secure police communications system, its global databases, and the vital training of law enforcement officials,” Mr Moseme said.

In this respect, with the German-funded INTERPOL OASIS-Africa programme aiming to build capacity, develop infrastructure and support police operations in Africa, the manager of INTERPOL’s Intellectual Property Rights programme, John Newton, said that ‘a key feature of Operation Fiela was the integrated approach used by police, customs and drug regulatory agencies to plan and co-ordinate these enforcement efforts using proven investigative techniques refined by INTERPOL in the context of the  World Health Organization (WHO) International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force (IMPACT) Programme'.

Operation Fiela was part of a series of activities addressing transnational organized criminal attacks on intellectual property rights within the OASIS programme.