India top source for illicit medicines reaching Swiss shores

Amid much hoopla over alleged black money stashed by Indians in Swiss banks, Switzerland has disclosed that India is the top source for illegally imported medicines confiscated by their customs department.

PTI| Last Updated: Feb 28, 2016, 21:40 PM IST
India top source for illicit medicines reaching Swiss shores
Pic for representational purpose only

Geneva: Amid much hoopla over alleged black money stashed by Indians in Swiss banks, Switzerland has disclosed that India is the top source for illegally imported medicines confiscated by their customs department.

As per the latest data released by the Swiss government, India accounted for 42 percent of the confiscated medicinal product shipments in 2015. Two thirds of all seized shipments originated in Asian countries, including India.

Without identifying the seized products that originated from India, the Swiss government agency for therapeutic products, Swissmedic, said that erectile stimulants accounted for 51 percent of the confiscated medicinal products.

Major product categories that were confiscated also include sleeping tablets and tranquillisers (15 percent), slimming preparations (13 percent), medically important, prescription-only medicines (9 percent), while others were 12 percent.

Switzerland has widely been known as a 'safe haven' for parking illicit wealth amassed by Indians, given the famed secrecy walls of Swiss banks.

Amid growing pressure from various countries, including India, these secrecy walls have begun to crumble in recent years. Switzerland has been sharing information on suspected cases of black money with the Indian authorities whenever they have been given credible evidence to back such claims.

Releasing the latest data on illicit trade in medicines, Swissmedic said that the Swiss customs authorities reported 1,134 cases of illegally imported medicinal products in 2015.

Swissmedic monitors illegal medicine imports in close cooperation with the customs authorities.

As the authority responsible for overseeing the therapeutic products, Swissmedic analyses suspicious shipments confiscated by customs, determines their risk potential and initiates appropriate action where necessary.

The agency also works with national and international authorities and institutions to fight illegal medicine trade.

It further said that fewer slimming products were imported in 2015, while more medicines containing narcotics were confiscated. Potency products still account for around half the illegal imports.

The confiscated products originated from as many as 62 countries. While India accounted for 42 percent of confiscated products, other Asian countries (primarily Thailand, China, Singapore, Cambodia) accounted for 24 percent.

Western Europe (such as UK, Germany, Portugal) was the source for 18 percent of such products, Eastern Europe for 8 percent, Central and South America for 4 percent, while other regions accounted for 4 percent.

Swissmedic further said that potentially dangerous active substances that are either incorrectly declared or not declared at all represent a growing problem.

It also warned that most of the medicinal products procured from dubious sources on the internet have major quality defects.