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04 juillet 2014

Moldova police seize smuggled snake venom

LYON, France – In a sting against organized crime, Moldova police have seized a record amount of snake venom destined for sale on the black market and arrested members of the criminal network which smuggled the substance into the country.

Following a month-long investigation into the network’s activities, police with the Moldova General Police Inspectorate, Information and Security Service and General Prosecutor’s Office conducted a joint operation where they seized 9,000 vials of snake venom –  a total of 5 kg of the substance – and arrested six Moldovan nationals.

According to police, the venom was smuggled into Moldova from Afghanistan, and the criminal group was attempting to sell it for some EUR 2.8 million.

“Cooperation among the many law enforcement agencies in Moldova was a key factor leading to the success of this operation,” said Fredolin Lecari, Head of the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Moldova.

“The safety of our citizens is a priority for all law enforcement in Moldova. Therefore, we will continue to work closely with each other and with our counterparts around the world via INTERPOL to turn back crime and send a strong message to criminals that Moldova will not tolerate any illegal activities,” he concluded.

The venom from vipers and other poisonous snakes is used for medicinal purposes. On the legitimate international market, snake venom is typically sold for EUR 800-2,000 per gram, making it a lucrative substance for criminal groups to smuggle and sell illegally.

“Organized criminal networks seek to exploit many types of illicit or smuggled goods in order to fund themselves, though this is the first case INTERPOL is aware of involving such an unusual and exotic item as snake venom. This exceptional case brings a new dimension to these criminal endeavours,” said Michael Ellis, Head of INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods and Counterfeiting unit. 

“The Moldova police and law enforcement authorities should be commended for their success in identifying this smuggling group and preventing them from making any profits from the illicitly obtained venom, which they could have then used to poison society through other serious criminal activities,” added Mr Ellis.

Launched in 2012, INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods and Counterfeiting initiative seeks to identify, disrupt and dismantle the transnational organized networks behind this crime, and also identify the routes used in transporting illicit goods, which are often also used for human trafficking and drug smuggling.