London - Thirteen people have been convicted in what British officials are calling Europe's largest veterinary drug ring.
LONDON — Thirteen people have been convicted in what British officials are calling Europe's largest veterinary drug ring.
Ronald Meddes, 73, and his wife, Regine Lansley, 62, led the illegal business, under which more than $9.8 million in veterinary products were smuggled into the United Kingdom.
The illegally imported drugs included non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anabolic steroids, antibiotics, sedatives and pain-control treatments for horses, cows, sheep, pigs and companion animals, according to the UK's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The illegal prescription drugs were sold to more than 4,000 British customers from the couple's property in France and warehouses in Belgium and Kent. Six people were convicted along with Meddes and Lansley for distributing the products to British farms, stables, kennels and veterinarians, DEFRA says. Three major customers also were convicted, along with one man responsible for laundering the proceeds, according to the agency.
"This was a significant commercial enterprise that seriously attacked the principle of safe and effective veterinary medicines. Incorrect use of medication of unknown origin and dubious quality compromises animal health and welfare, increases the risk of harmful residues in the food chain and raises the spectre of unnecessary antibiotic resistance," says Steve Dean, chief executive of the UK Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).
Meddes and Lansley ran a series of businesses from January 2004 to November 2010 under names such as ZAO Eurovet International, Euro Exports CIS Limited, Global Animal Pharmaceuticals and the Animal Pharmacy. Many of the medicines were sold to the UK customers by telephone, fax and online, he says. DEFRA's investigation began in 2006 after a small seizure of illegal medicines were traced back to the couple. In May 2007, French authorities seized more than 20 metric tons of illegal drugs—the largest seizure in Europe—from the couple's property in France. But Meddes and Lansley re-established their business in Belgium before another seizure in October 2008.
Meddes was sentenced to 28 months in prison and Lansley to 20 months, according to DEFRA.