Europol has supported the Moldovan Customs and the Romanian Police (Poliția Română – DCCO) in taking down a criminal network producing and distributing illegal anabolic and counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The network used popular social media influencers to promote the fake performance-enhancing substances.
The judicial side of the investigation, supported by Eurojust, was led by the Moldovan Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Organised Crime and Special Cases and the Prosecutors of the Directorate for the Investigation of Organised Crime and Terrorism.
Influential clients contribute to criminal activities worth EUR 1.5 million
The criminal network was found to be supplying a large number of clients across Romania and the European Union. The Romanian suspect had close ties with gyms in Romania, which the networks supplied with the illegal goods. Some of their clients were well-known social media influencers with popular dietary and nutrition channels, as well as prominent entertainment personalities who often appeared in broadcast media.
The suspects used instant messaging applications and dark web marketplaces to reach customers in other EU countries. To disguise the origin of the products, they used labels from famous e-commerce marketplaces to package the parcels. They then received payments in cryptocurrencies and used crypto-mixers to launder the criminal assets. Based on Europol’s analysis and the information provided by the investigators, it is estimated that the criminal profits may have reached EUR 1.5 million.
Results of the action day on 29 March 2023:
- 37 house searches (22 in Moldova in the counties of Chisinau, Briceni, Telenesti and 15 in the counties of Iași, Bacău, Bucharest, Constanța and Sibiu in Romania);
- 11 arrests in Romania (4 main organisers and 7 facilitators);
- Illegal lab dismantled and over 1 million pills found at the production site;
- 42 litres of injectable anabolic steroids;
- 6.5 kg of various active powders;
- 20 000 vials with multiple doses of Trenox, Trenbolone H, Boldenone, Primobolan, Terstosterone, Masteron, Sustanon, Clenbuterol;
- 28 000 vials Mastera, Tren Mix, Testoviron, Evogene, Stanoject;
- 340 000 anabolic steroid tablets containing various products such as Danamed, Testomed, Decamed, Provimed, Anadrol, Stanobol, Dianabol, Vikalis;
- 433 syringes and 8 500 labels;
- Assets seized include 5 cars, luxury watches, EUR 47 000, USD 15 000, over MDL 190 000, over ROL 40 000, luxury watches and precious stones, electronic equipment, two crypto “cold” wallets and bank cards.
Special surveillance leads to the arrests
The national authorities deployed special investigative techniques to gain a better understanding of the criminal activities. Through these techniques, the investigators discovered that the criminal activity was logistically well-planned and had an effective overall organisation. There were four main organisers, one Romanian and three Moldovans. The investigations revealed that every Tuesday, all three Moldovans travelled by car in Romania. From Wednesday to Thursday or Friday, they produced the illegal pharmaceuticals in the factory. Once the production was ready, the Moldovan suspects supplied the Romanian suspect in charge of distribution.
Europol supported the investigation with operational coordination and analysis and, during the action day, deployed one expert to Romania and one to Moldova to cross-check operational information in real-time and provide leads to officers in the field. During the course of the investigation, Europol also provided financial and cryptographic analysis.
Eurojust supported the authorities involved by setting up and funding a joint investigation team.
Europol’s IPC3 (Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition), which supported the investigation, is a project co-funded by the EUIPO to combat intellectual property crime.