A gang making millions out of smuggling anabolic steroids around the world, with a distribution hub in Northern Ireland, has been jailed.
The seizure at Heathrow Airport in 2014 of a huge haul of around 600 kilos of Class C drugs bound for Belfast led to the downfall of some of the world’s biggest players in a booming illegal industry.
National Crime Agency investigators began to piece together the movement of dozens of unlicensed shipments of drugs.
“When the call was received at Belfast, the officers were as surprised as anybody else,” David Cunningham, who led the NCA investigation, told UTV.
“But I think it was only when they began to explore the route that this was taking and the reason behind it, that the whole thing began to develop into an international enquiry.”
On Thursday, four men - including 38-year-old kingpin Jacob Sporon-Fiedler - were sentenced at the Old Bailey in London.
Sporon-Fiedler, a Dutch national, ran an Indian pharmaceutical company that flooded the UK with at least £65m worth of illicit steroids.
He lived in a luxury apartment in an exclusive area of Mumbai, funnelling his profits through bank accounts in Hong Kong, Singapore,and the Seychelles.
He has been jailed for five years and four months after pleading guilty to the charges against him.
“Sporon-Fiedler thought that by orchestrating this network from abroad he was untouchable,” Mr Cunningham said.
“But following his arrest, he found we had so much evidence against him he felt he had no choice but to plead guilty.”
His UK fixers, who also enjoyed the flamboyant lifestyles of millionaires, have also been jailed.
Nathan Selcon, 45 and from Maidenhead, was sentenced to six years for his part in the operation.
Gurjaipal Dhillon, 65 and from London, was handed a five-year sentence, while 34-year-old Mohammed Afzal, from Slough, was jailed for two years.
Investigators believe the steroids - like those used by the London Bridge and Westminster terrorists - were sold on to bodybuilders, gym goers, and possibly even top-class professional athletes.
“There might be a perception that it’s socially acceptable to take steroids - body image and bodybuilding - but I think this illustrates the point that you don’t know what you’re putting in your body,” Mr Cunningham said.
“There should be an awareness among the people who are taking these drugs that you don’t actually know what you’re getting.”
Pat Myhill, from UK Anti-Doping, said: “We are very pleased with the outcome of this investigation.
“Our congratulations go to the team at the NCA for a successful resolution to this complicated case, which has identified significant distribution of image and performance enhancing drugs.”
Mark Jackson, from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said: “Medicines purchased outside the regulated supply chain cannot be guaranteed to meet standards of quality, safety and effectiveness and can present a real risk to public health.
“Some may contain dangerous ingredients which can have devastating consequences for patients who use them.”