More than 242,000 unlicensed prescription tablets destined for addresses in Northern Ireland have been seized in a major operation targeting illicit and counterfeit drugs.
Justice Minister Naomi Long joined with Health Minister Robin Swann and PSNI assistant chief constable Mark McEwan to put the haul of illegal medicines confiscated as part of Operation Pangea XV on display at Stormont.
They issued a warning that people were risking their physical and mental health by buying unregulated prescription drugs online.
Multiple packets of tablets with a street value of almost £250,000 destined for Northern Ireland were intercepted and seized as part of the global Interpol co-ordinated operation.
Medicines seized included Diazepam, Pregabalin and Zopiclone as well as Tamoxifen.
Mrs Long said: "I am pleased that the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) Drugs Sub Group has supported Operation Pangea again this year.
"The success of the operation means that hundreds of thousands of illicit tablets have been prevented from being distributed in Northern Ireland and lives have no doubt been saved as a result.
"Buying medicines from online sites may put people's physical and mental wellbeing at risk and the criminal networks behind these counterfeit products are making profits by exploiting vulnerable and unsuspecting consumers."
Mr Swann added: "The illicit medicines recovered during Operation Pangea were destined for addresses throughout Northern Ireland, leaving none of our communities immune from the dangers presented by drugs like these.
"People who buy from illegal sources do not know where the tablets have originated or what they really contain.
"My department's Medicines Regulatory Group works proactively all year round with its key partners, including police and Border Force to highlight and curtail this activity when possible and I am grateful for their ongoing commitment."
Mr McEwan said: "Operation Pangea sends a clear message to those involved in the supply of counterfeit and unlawful prescription drugs that we will do everything in our collective power to disrupt and prevent the importation and supply.
"I want to warn anyone considering buying drugs online.
"These unregulated drugs are often produced in illicit, unhygienic laboratories and are made to look like the genuine product.
"On their own or in any combination these drugs are incredibly dangerous to take.
"We will continue to work in partnership at a local, national and international level to reduce the risks and harm associated with this illegal and unregulated industry.
"By working with our partners in the Organised Crime Task Force, this operation has removed a significant amount of incredibly harmful counterfeit and unlawful prescription drugs from our communities.
"Our investigations and operational activity into those individuals and organised crime groups involved will continue."
Darren Brabon, interim assistant director of Border Force said his organisation was alive to the threat posed by the importation of unlicensed medicine.
He added: "Through a collaborative approach we have removed a substantial amount of illicit medicines from reaching the streets."
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