Indian-origin men, including a father-son duo, have been found guilty of operating an extensive counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs factory in west London, according to Scotland Yard.
The investigation was led by the Metropolitan Police’s Cyber Crime Unit after receiving intelligence from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) about the dark web sale of pharmaceutical drugs.
Allen Valentine, Roshan Valentine (his son), and Krunal Patel were convicted of manufacturing and distributing Benzodiazepines, a Class C controlled drug.
The operation yielded illicit profits of at least GBP 3.5 million, a PTI report said.
The trio used multiple dark web accounts to promote the sale of Xanax, Diazepam, and Valium.
Detective Constable Alex Hawkins, who led the investigation, described their operation as “a sophisticated large-scale production of fake pharmaceutical drugs on the dark web that appeared to be genuine.”
He highlighted the risks posed to buyers, as some counterfeit medications contained different and dangerous substances.
This investigation also resulted in the UK’s first seizure of these chemicals, with plans to classify them as Class A banned substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Hawkins emphasised the importance of seeking medical advice and obtaining prescriptions through doctors, warning against purchasing medications from the dark web.
In August of the previous year, all three men faced charges of conspiracy to produce Class C drugs and money laundering offenses.
Krunal Patel and Roshan Valentine pleaded guilty earlier this year, while Allen Valentine pleaded not guilty but was found guilty after a trial.
The charges against them include conspiracy to produce, possess, and supply Class C drugs, possession with intent to supply, selling trademarked goods without authorisation, using a registered trademark without authorisation, possessing articles for unauthorised trademark copying, and conspiracy to conceal, convert, or transfer criminal proceeds.
Sentencing for all three individuals is pending, and a confiscation hearing will be held to seize their illegal profits.
Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, the head of the Met Police Cyber Crime Unit, highlighted their expertise in infiltrating dark web illegal activities.
She emphasised the collaborative efforts with international law enforcement partners to effectively halt operations like this.
The investigation conducted by the unit’s detectives commenced in January 2022 and swiftly led them to uncover that the three men frequently visited a warehouse unit located at Acton Business Park in west London.
The men operated under the guise of Puzzle Logistics Limited, a company formed in 2016. Each of them frequently visited the warehouse, with Krunal Patel often leaving with bags and returning without their contents.
The drugs were purchased on the dark web using cryptocurrency. The Met Police Cyber Crime Unit, well-versed in the dark web and cryptocurrency, aided in the investigation.
Specialised cyber tactics were employed to establish the involvement of the Valentines and Patel in the production and sale of illegal substances.
The investigation revealed that approximately GBP 3.5 million in cryptocurrency was converted into fiat currency, resulting in the freezing of their accounts.
On August 17, 2022, law enforcement arrested Krunal Patel near the warehouse, where 15 parcels destined for various UK locations were discovered.
The parcels contained Benzodiazepine tablets imprinted with brand names such as “Xanax” and “Teva.” which are licensed medicines belonging to the Benzodiazepine group.
Subsequently, Roshan and Allen Valentine were arrested later the same day.
A search of the warehouse uncovered a concealed laboratory, equipment, containers of chemical substances, and crates of on-site manufactured pills.
Analysis revealed the presence of Class C drugs, including Deschloroetizolam, Flubromazepam, Bromazolam, and Flualprazolam.
Ongoing investigations are underway to verify Allen Valentine’s claims of being a qualified pharmacist and practicing doctor.