Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Viagra scam: ringleader jailed

A British businessman has been jailed for four-and-a- half years for organising a conspiracy to supply counterfeit drugs for treating conditions such as impotence and baldness.

Ashish Halai, 31, of Borehamwood, Essex, was described by prosecutors as the "lynchpin" of the British side of a multimillion-pound operation to smuggle fake Viagra and other counterfeit medicines made illegally in China, Pakistan and other parts of Asia.



Three other members of the gang were found guilty at Kingston Crown Court of similar charges of conspiring to sell counterfeit medicines. The gang paid about 25p for each tablet, but the court heard that they could be sold on the internet for up to £20 each. Millions of pounds passed through bank accounts belonging to the four men.



The court heard that Halai and his wife, who is a qualified pharmacist, had run a legitimate pharmacy in Bayswater, central London. But when the business was sold he continued to use the name as a front to sell herbal weight-loss aids. In 2002, he started to deal in counterfeit Viagra, selling it via email. Soon, he had made a deal to supply a Mexican company working out of the Bahamas with about 600 tablets a month.



Halai developed a network of contacts, including Gary Haywood, Zahid Mirza and Ashwin Patel, to help smuggle tablets into the UK and ship them on to the Bahamas. All three were convicted last month, but reporting restrictions were lifted only yesterday.



The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which investigated the case, said Halai was at the "epicentre" of the conspiracy. "He negotiated the smooth running of the operation from his base in north London," the MHRA said.



Some customers complained that the tablets had no effect, while others said they made them nauseous. and others paid out large sums unaware that they were buying fakes.



Salesman Gary Haywood, 58, from Leicester, student Ashwin Patel, 24, of north London, and businessman Zahid Mirza, 45, of Ilford, Essex, will be sentenced next month. The jury failed to reach verdicts on other men. They will be retried next year.

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