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  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 6:08am
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Shanghai woman gets 12.5-year jail term for smuggling fake Viagra

Shanghai woman sentenced to 12½ years for running counterfeiting ring that smuggled sex drugs from mainland to Togo at massive profit

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 December, 2013, 1:10pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 December, 2013, 7:20am
 

A Shanghai woman who made a fortune smuggling fake Viagra to Africa has been jailed for 12½ years by a court in Zhejiang, mainland media have reported.

The woman ran a trading company in Togo in West Africa, and for more than a decade evaded customs by routing shipments through busy ports, the Qianjiang Evening News reported.

Each pill cost about one yuan (HK$1.27) to make and fetched up to 90 yuan on the African market, the newspaper said.

The total size of the operation was not disclosed, but in March last year customs in Yiwu in Zhejiang intercepted a shipment of about 1.7 million pills among 600,000 boxes of sex-enhancement drugs. The pills contained sildenafil - the active ingredient in Viagra.

The woman, described by the report as "fashionable for her age", ran the trading company out of Lome, the capital of Togo. She spent three months there following the Yiwu raid and was arrested at Shanghai's international airport in July last year.

A nationwide operation followed, leading to the arrest of 18 others involved in production and packaging, including her supplier, a 35-year old man from Fujian province who reportedly sold fake drug supplies to clients across the mainaldn.

Police raided his workshop in Foshan , Guangdong province, where they found 3.2 million pills and nine workers, the youngest aged just 13, mixing powdered sildenafil with corn bran. They were no scales to measure the ratio and they worked at night. An overdose of sildenafil can lead to blindness and death.

China has in recent years been cited as the source of a large influx of dangerous counterfeit medicine in Africa. In a report in December last year, The Guardian quoted international health experts as saying a third of the malaria drugs in Uganda and Tanzania were fake or substandard, with most believed to have originated in China or India.

The Qianjiang Evening News said the woman was jailed by a court in Jinhua on Tuesday, and fined 200,000 yuan.

She was charged with smuggling obscene articles rather than fake drugs, which legal experts said could be due to the mainland not classifying sex-enhancement drugs as medicine.

Separately, police have arrested a woman in Hangzhou who ran a popular shop on Taobao that specialised in high-quality counterfeits of top luxury brands.

Within six months of opening the shop in 2010, sales had exceeded 20 million yuan.

According to a report by a local newspaper owned by the Hangzhou Daily Press Group, the woman often flew to France to scout the latest trends. She ran a 1,000-square metre studio with 10 employees handling marketing, design and customer service.

A string of manufacturers in Guangdong competed to act as her supplier, but she had high standards.

She would seek to artificially boost demand by telling customers supplies of top-selling items were running out.

To avoid legal attention, she would slightly alter the spelling of labels, with "Chanel" turned into "Chan House" and "Prada" becoming "PDA".

Police arrested her in late September on two charges related to selling counterfeit. She faces at least seven years in jail if found guilty.

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