6 suspects held as Chinese police raid US$15 million ‘illegal’ slimming pill operation

Weight loss tablets found to contain sibutramine, a substance banned in China over links to health problems

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 November, 2017, 4:09pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 November, 2017, 10:05pm

Police in central China have detained six people on suspicion of manufacturing and selling 100 million yuan (US$15 million) worth of slimming pills that contained a potentially harmful substance, according to a local media report.

The suspects, all aged in their twenties, were taken into custody at the end of July, after a three-month operation by police in Loudi, Hunan province, news portal Red Star News reported on Saturday.

Police launched an investigation in April in response to a tip-off claiming that an online store was selling weight loss pills containing sibutramine. The appetite suppressant has been banned in China since 2010 as a result of studies linking it to health problems such as irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath and even strokes.

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By posing as customers, police were able to confirm the shop was selling the banned drugs and, over time, tracked the distribution chain, which included suppliers not only in Hunan, but also in Henan and Jiangsu provinces.

The manufacturer was eventually traced to Anhua county in Hunan, where police mounted a surveillance operation on a warehouse. After gathering enough evidence, they moved in, the report said.

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One person was arrested at the warehouse and five others were detained in follow-up raids on other properties.

The investigation also yielded 40,000 sales receipts for 100,000 bottles of the slimming pills that had apparently been sold across the country, the report said. It did not give a precise breakdown of how the police calculated the 100 million yuan headline figure.

The authorities had yet to determine how the drug manufacturers sourced the sibutramine used in the pills, it said.