UK trio get jail terms for money laundering in fake medicines case

Pills on PC monitorThree men form Stoke-on-Trent in the UK have been sentenced to 89 weeks in jail for laundering £256,000 ($400,000) generated by a rogue Internet pharmacy found to be selling counterfeit medicines.

63-year-old Michael Bowyer was sentenced to 45 weeks in prison for his part in the crime, while David Fairhurst (61) received 26 weeks and George Lowe (50) was given an 18-week sentence suspended for 18 months.

Bowyer laundered £141,000 between 2004 and 2009, while Fairhurst processed £58,000 over a similar period. Lowe laundered £76,000 over a seven-month period in 2008/9.

In 2010, Canadian/Cypriot Norma Ene Ruutel-Glykys was sentenced to eight months for operating the website, called, after an investigation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) led to the seizure of 65,000 doses of medicine, including fake drugs and powerful prescription-only-medicines, in 2009.  

The site was owned by Geoffrey Bible, who left the UK in in 2002/3 and used the three men to transfer the money to his account in Cyprus.

The latest sentences tie in with the MHRA's strategy of following the money trail in cases of this type. MHRA officials made test purchases of counterfeit versions of Pfizer's erectile dysfunction (ED) drug Viagra (sildenafil) to establish a link to the criminal enterprise.

Then, with the help of specialist financial investigators the agency traced the audit trail, revealing that the business turned over in excess of £1m over three years. The three men withdrew money from the website’s UK bank account and wired this to the Cyprus account using a variety of routes.

In addition to ED drugs, was found to be supplying a huge range of medicines, ranging from weight- and hair-loss treatments, to antidepressants, powerful painkillers and anabolic steroids.

"These illegal pharmacy websites selling medicines bought from illegitimate sources pose a real threat to people's health because they simply don’t know what they are getting," commented Nimo Ahmed, the MHRA's acting head of enforcement.

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