Two Turkish citizens stand trial for smuggling illicit cancer drugs to US
The indictment charges the two men with one conspiracy count and three counts of smuggling illegal drugs into the US.Two Turkish nationals who were arrested in Puerto Rico appeared in court Feb. 13 on charges that included smuggling adulterated and mislabeled prescription cancer treatments from Turkey and other countries into the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said in a statement.
Özkan Semizoğlu and Sabahaddin Akman were also charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. and the FDA as the cancer drugs they allegedly attempted to smuggle into the country did not meet the FDA’s standards and had not been approved for distribution in the country.
The pair was arrested in Puerto Rico on Jan. 16 in a joint international operation, led by the FDA and Europol and involved several German government offices, including the Bonn prosecutor, the Federal Criminal Police (BKA), the Dusseldorf Police and the German State Criminal Police (LKA).
“This case shows that those who prey on innocent patients in the United States, even from outside our borders, are subject to criminal prosecution,” said John Roth, director of the Office of Criminal Investigations in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs. “The assistance of our international partners was critical in carrying out the undercover operation that led to the arrest of these individuals.”
The indictment charges the two men with one conspiracy count and three counts of smuggling illegal drugs into the U.S. Each smuggling charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000.
The defendants obtained the illicit drugs and then used shipping labels to conceal the illegal nature of the shipments, including customs declarations falsely describing the contents as “gifts,” “documents,” or “product samples” with no or low-declared monetary values, authorities have alleged. They also broke large drug shipments into several smaller packages to reduce the likelihood of seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities, according to accusations.
Special agents of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service assigned to the U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Office in Ankara also assisted the international operation.