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Vienna, 01.04.2019 Customs service confiscates 423 kg anabolic steroids with a value of EUR 478,860 State Secretary of Finance Fuchs congratulates customs officers: "Our custom service is protecting the health of the population!" – 362,500 steroids smuggled in 16 cartons

In July 2018, a courier service registered a consignment comprising a total of 16 cartons, weighing 423 kg, for customs clearance at the Eisenstadt Customs Office at Vienna Airport. The goods were declared to be electrical switches having a value of EUR 1,476.80. During a check on the goods, customs officers established that, contrary to indications, they did not consist of switches, but a variety of tablets and vials totalling 362,500, comprising a whole variety of steroids. The actual value of the goods making up the confiscated consignment totalled EUR 478,860. This would have led to a loss of excise duty in the sum of EUR 95,772. In order not to jeopardise investigations to date, and which are still continuing, previously, no public statements have been made on the case.

"I wish to congratulate customs officers on this successful seizure," declared Austrian State Secretary of Finance Hubert Fuchs, evidently proud of the excellent work undertaken by staff of the Eisenstadt Customs Office at Vienna Airport. "Specifically sports enthusiasts and the fitness conscious should not use doping agents, for the sake of their health, neither should they purchase medicines from unknown or dubious sources." Mr Fuchs went on to affirm: "Success derived from a person's inner strength and confidence endures the longest!"

Following the customs check, customs investigators immediately instituted investigations in this case and, due to the large quantity of goods involved, filed a criminal complaint with the Korneuburg Public Prosecutor's Office relating to smuggling as well as offences under the Austrian Pharmaceuticals Act and the 2007 Federal Anti-Doping Act. The Seibersdorf laboratory, accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, was also involved in the investigations, analysing the relevant substances.

As logistics partner, the senders of the doping substances, which originated from India, chose a mail-order service provider in Austria. As part of its contract, this service provider passed the goods on to other parcel shops as well as also to private purchasers and business operators in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom. Naturally, however, the shipping partner did not know what was in the packages. In accordance with its instructions, it allocated the goods prepared for this purpose to the various recipients and dispatched them accordingly. In this way, from the sender to the ultimate recipient, the units dispatched became ever smaller – and thus increasingly inconspicuous.

As a result of this particularly sophisticated strategy, this type of smuggling was successfully used in at least 22 other cases, as further enquiries by customs investigators revealed, and as was confirmed upon further enquiries at the Austrian mail-order service provider. For approximately one whole year, the sender of the doping substances was able to continue forwarding the illegal consignments until, in mid 2018, Austrian customs succeeded in putting an end to such criminal activities. Intensive investigation work led to the assumption that, in this way, over 20 tonnes of doping substances having a value of approximately EUR 23 million were smuggled into the EU and distributed there. The excise duties thereby evaded totalled over EUR 5 million.

Due to the international dimension, Europol was also brought into the investigations. So far, it has been possible to establish that the purported "mastermind" is resident in the UK. The suspect used a registered office in the Seychelles and manufacturing firms in India in order to distribute his goods on the European black market. International investigations as to the actual purchasers in the Member States involved are still ongoing and are likely to occupy the authorities for some time to come.

Customs investigators filed a corresponding complaint with the Korneuburg Public Prosecutor's Office as well as, due to the amount of excise duty evaded, totalling EUR 5 million, subsequently also with the Austrian Central Public Prosecutor's Office for Combating Economic Crime and Corruption. In the event of a conviction once the investigations are completed, a custodial sentence of several years and monetary fines of up to double the value of the fraud may be expected. If the presumed perpetrator is successfully indicted in the other offences, the value of the present case will run into millions.

"I am gratified that our customs service does not relent in combating pharmaceutical offences," declared Mr Fuchs, affirming the successes achieved by the Austrian customs administration, adding: "Apart from the revenue aspects of such a case, through their daily work, our customs officers are protecting the population from harm and, as in this case, protecting the health of consumers!"

Photos of the seizure may be found at our photo album