24 Feb 2005

Major NZ prescription drug trade linked to Fiji

7:18 am on 24 February 2005

Fiji middlemen are reported to have been linked to a major internet trade in prescription drugs operated illegally from New Zealand.

Radio Fiji says the Fiji link trade came to light after a New Zealand couple, the pharmacist Debra Young and partner Steven Brentnell, were convicted in Dunedin and fined nearly US$40,000.

The drugs, which included Viagra and Prozac, were sent to Fiji under false labelling disguised as health supplements.

Once the contents were identified under a special light, the drugs were correctly labelled and forwarded to clients in the United States, Britain, and several European and Asian countries who ordered and paid for them over the Internet.

A Lautoka customs agent and a Suva pharmacist are alleged to have handled the Fiji end of the trade.

The Fiji link men involved are also alleged to have submitted false claims for the refund of Value Added Tax.

A New Zealand report says the trade was worth at least US$180,000 a month.