The biggest EPO stash in Europe seized in Cádiz
The Civil Guard, within the framework of the Hipoxianet operation, has dismantled a supposedly criminal organization dedicated to trafficking with Erythropoietin (EPO) for athletes nationally and internationally and more than 850 injectables have been operated, which is the largest seizure in Europe of this type of EPO. The operation was carried out in the provinces of Barcelona and Cádiz after information received from the Spanish Agency for the Protection of Health in Sports (Aepsad) in which it was indicated that several athletes could be accessing this type of doping substances through their Buy online.
So, they have been six people arrested and / or investigated in these provinces for the alleged crimes against public health, belonging to a criminal organization, money laundering, misappropriation, fraud against Social Security and documentary falsehood, as reported by the Civil Guard in a statement. The agents identified at least seven web pages offering different anabolic steroid products without any sanitary control, as is the case of the www.epobest.com site, which has been intervened in the same way as the other pages.
From the Civil Guard they have explained the difficulty for the investigators, "since all the domains were housed in servers of countries like Iceland or tax havens like New Jersey, whose legislation is more permissive as far as web hosting is concerned". These websites were aimed at potential clients nationally and internationally, in multiple languages and currencies, in which various types of medications such as hormones and steroids were offered. Some were dedicated exclusively to the sale of EPO, in which it was indicated that the mentioned hormone was sent from Spain.
The study and analysis of important volume of information obtained after the final phase of the investigation in computers, telephones, e-mails and current accounts based in Austria, Slovakia and Cyprus is being carried out, from which result a broad list of Possible end consumers.
A lot of national and international athletes
The Civil Guard has detailed that they are expected to have a large number of national and international athletes, from different disciplines and levels, that accessed these doping substances in order to increase their physical abilities. So far, more than 800,000 euros have been blocked in different bank accounts and real estate / personal property, with more than 70,000 euros in cash in the records made.
According to the Civil Guard, the network maintained several web pages hosted on servers from foreign countries and discharged with false identities, in which the products were offered.
To facilitate communication between buyer and seller, encrypted instant messaging networks were used through an Austrian telephone number, which was operated from Spain and the disjointed organization, as added by the Benemérita, then facilitated several ways to make payments, to through money transfer companies, bank transfers to international checking accounts, or through cryptocurrencies to facilitate their anonymity.
Up to this point The network was operated by several citizens of Serbian nationality, one of them based in Barcelona and, to obtain the EPO, the organization used another cell made up of Spanish citizens who extracted the medicines from the Spanish legal circuit, through a dialysis clinic in Cádiz. These medications "were highly appreciated by customers, as they are original drugs, always within the expiration dates," they explained.
Once the medication was taken from the clinic, they were stored in a warehouse until, finally, they were sent to buyers. Thus, in this clinic they have apprehended more than 850 pre-filled EPO syringes (among other medicines), without the proper conditions of conservation or temperature, which is the largest seizure in Europe of this type of EPO, said the Civil Guard.
In its shipments, the EPO was accompanied by cold plates, whose thermal inertia was insufficient until its arrival at destination but that it gave a false appearance of pharmaceutical safety to the business. Depending on the national or international destination, the organization proceeded to send the doping substances using various courier companies.
As the Civil Guard has continued, the functions of those investigated were defined depending on the country of origin of the orders, sending them from Cádiz or from Barcelona in each case. In this way the role that each component played in the network was differentiated, "Which greatly increased the security of illegal activities." Payments between the components of the criminal group were made in hand and in cash "to hinder the traceability of related funds."
Dialysis Clinic in Cádiz
Erythropoietin (EPO) was obtained by one of the members of the group in Cádiz, taking advantage of his condition as head of a dialysis clinic and falsifying the data necessary for placing orders on the records of the patients of the clinic, staying With the surplus.
This activity would have been carried out since at least the last ten years, although The analysis and study is still pending of all the information collected in order to determine the total amount defrauded to Social Security, which is assumed to be high, not only for that long period in which the organization has operated, but for the significant volume of orders that They have had.
A first piece of information, provided by the Inspection under the Ministry of Health of the Junta de Andalucía, indicates that only in the period from January 2016 to June 2019, the containers diverted to the black market would amount to 5,103 in different presentations, highlighting in number those of high concentration (8,000 and 10,000 international units).
The Civil Guard has also reported that the medicines were sent all over Europe using courier companies, documentation and false identities. Likewise, several current accounts that the organization used to channel the benefits obtained by the illegal activity have been investigated.
Some of the websites were created and directed directly to potential clients in Germany, Italy or France, although you could opt for translations in almost every language of the European Union.
This operation, coordinated by the Court of Instruction number 4 of Cádiz and the Provincial Prosecutor's Office, has been carried out by agents belonging to the Public Health and Doping Section of the Central Operating Unit of the Civil Guard.
Likewise, they have had the collaboration of police forces from various countries, with the coordination of Europol, with the participation and collaboration of the Spanish Agency for the Protection of Health in Sport (Aepsad), the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (Aemps), the Sub-Directorate of Health Services Inspection of the Ministry of Health and Families of the Junta de Andalucía and the Directorate in Spain of the company that owns the Dialysis Clinic investigated.
Likewise, contacts have been maintained with other European Agencies through other working groups and international forums in which the Central Operating Unit of the Civil Guard participates, such as the PFIPC (Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime) and the WGEO (Working Group of Enforcement Officers), both related to illicit drug trafficking at European and World level.