Belfast man fined £3,000 for illegal importation of thousands of unlicensed prescription medicines

Date published: 19 February 2021

Following an investigation by the Department of Health’s Medicines Regulatory Group, a man has been fined a total of £3,000 at Belfast Crown Court for the illegal importation of prescription medicines.

Elias Warnemunde was sentenced today at Belfast Crown Court for unlawfully importing over 70,000 tablets of the narcolepsy prescription drug Modafinil.

Warnemunde (33), previously pleaded guilty to three counts before the court for unlawfully importing the unlicensed prescription drugs and unlawful possession of the drugs with intent to supply them. 

During multi-agency operations in February and March 2020, Border Force officers intercepted a total of 21 postal packages containing the unlicensed Modafinil, imported from Hong Kong via the postal system. The packages were addressed to several residential addresses in Belfast which were subsequently searched under warrant by the PSNI where further consignments of the drugs were uncovered. Warnemunde was arrested and charged with offences under the Human Medicines Regulations. A total of 70,929 tablets with an estimated value of £71,000 were seized, together with a quantity of cash in sterling and euro.

In an investigation carried out by the Department of Health’s Medicines Regulatory Group, it was established that Warnemunde had sourced the illegal medicines via the internet and had intended to sell them on online. 

The Department of Health’s Medicines Regulatory Group Senior Enforcement Officer, Peter Moore said: “It is vital that we continue to get the message across that the use of any medicines sourced in this way, no matter what they are, is a real risk.

“This investigation involved the coordinated efforts of a number of agencies including the Police, Border Force and Department of Health officials, who will continue to be diligent in their efforts to reduce the harm that can be caused to the Northern Ireland public by unlicensed medicines like these. I would urge the public to be on the alert to ensure that they do not put their health at risk or fund this type of crime by purchasing medication from unregistered or unregulated internet sites or any other illicit source”.

Canice Ward, Head of the Medicines Regulatory Group, added: “The Department has made it very clear that it will continue to be vigilant and proactive in the regulation of medicines in Northern Ireland. My advice to the public is that they should only take Prescription Only Medicines after an appropriate consultation with their GP or other appropriate healthcare professional; Only healthcare professionals can take into account risks and benefits associated with every medicine.”

Notes to editors: 

1. Medicines regulatory importation and supply offences:

A person guilty of an offence under 17(1)(a), 255(4) or  46(3) of the Human Medicines Regulations, 2012 is liable:

(a) On summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum; or

(b) On conviction on indictment to a fine, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or to both.

2. To report any suspicious activity in relation to any unauthorised or counterfeit medicines in Northern Ireland, please contact Mr Peter Moore, Senior Medicines Enforcement Officer, Department of Health Medicines Regulatory Group, on: 028 90522094 or by email:  peter.moore@health-ni.gov.uk

3. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk.

4, Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt.

5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

 

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