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Caught red-handed Swiss customs cracks down on drugs and illegal medicine

A Swiss customs official carries out a training exercise with a sniffer dog

(Keystone)

Customs officials last year seized large quantities of heroin, ecstasy and LSD in Switzerland and caught a record number of illegal immigrants. They also confiscated more than 1,000 shipments of illegally imported therapeutic medicines, mostly from India.

According to the Swiss Customs Administration, the amount of heroin seized by officials quadrupled from 14kg in 2015 to 62kg the following year. The number of LSD and ecstasy pills also soared from 5,842 to 63,070, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

The authorities also reported that they had caught a record number of illegal immigrants trying to enter Switzerland last year: 48,838 people, or 57% more than in 2015. Just over two-thirds (33,844) entered canton Ticino in southern Switzerland from Italy.

Border guards also caught 22,104 people who were being sought by the police (11% increase on 2015). The number of cases of contraband was down slightly: 33,523 compared with 35,813 in 2015.

Hard figures

According to separate statistics released on Tuesday by Swissmedic, the Swiss agency for therapeutic products, customs officials also seized 1,028 packages of illegally imported medicines – a slight drop on the previous year.

As in previous years, over half of seized medicines (55%) were erectile stimulants containing the same active ingredient as Viagra or Cialis. They were followed by sleeping tablets (13.5%) and other prescription drugs (13%).

Nearly half of all shipments originated from India. Swissmedic said suppliers generally used spam emails to advertise “generic products at advantageous prices”.

In many cases, the medicines supplied have “serious quality defects and arrive without a carton or package insert, which means that there are absolutely no warnings about side effects and precautions or information about the correct dosage”, Swissmedic said.

Counterfeit medicines frequently contain too high or too low a dose, or incorrect, undeclared or even no active substances, it added. 

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