Six people involved in the counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals have been handed prison sentences, representing the largest group of people sentenced for being part of a distribution network of counterfeit medicines, being found guilty of illicit association.
The Attorney General’s Office with the support of Customs and the Tax Crimes Unit, after a follow-up of several months that included telephone calls and personal follow-ups, carried out a simultaneous raid on several commercial premises and homes located in the cities of Quito and Ibarra. They seized hundreds of thousands of pharmaceutical products and arrested seven people involved in the operation.
Almost everyone involved in the illegal operation had family ties to each other or worked together for several years, using legal businesses as façades including several stores located in the center of the aforementioned cities. Those involved also distributed original pharmaceuticals, in inappropriate conditions, and even lacked authorization to store or distribute such products.
Through a private prosecution, CorralRosales formally participated in the proceeding on behalf of Pfizer, thereby joining the Attorney General’s Office as prosecutor. This allowed for a joint effort in which several investigations were carried out confirming that the seized products were counterfeit and the degree to which each person charged had participated in the illegal network.
Within the earlier hearing, the judge accepted the charges presented by the prosecution and by CorralRosales against all of those involved in the operation, following which the case went to oral trial before a criminal court consisting of three judges.
In the oral trial hearing that lasted several days, all the evidence collected in the investigative process was disclosed, proving the existence of the offence and the participation of each person accused.
In an oral sentence issued at the end of the hearing, the judges unanimously decided to sentence six of the seven defendants with three years in prison, highlighting the seriousness of the crime and its potential risks to the health and safety of the public.
Those sentenced requested conditional release, which would have meant no prison time being served. The prosecution did not present any opposition to this request, but CorralRosales objected on behalf of Pfizer. In particular, we emphasized the gravity of the crime and the ease with which the same offence could be committed again. The judges granted our request, thereby rejecting the petition of defense.
Those sentenced have appealed against the ruling. To date, the appeal has not been resolved.
The importance of this ruling lies not only in the number of people sentenced, but also for the way in which the proceeding was handled, in particular by turning it into an “illicit association” case in the face of the procedural inconveniences of investigating and prosecuting the matter under the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
This is the second sentence obtained in Ecuador for the counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals, and again a recognized international laboratory intervened. In addition, CorralRosales acted as a private prosecutor in both cases.
The sentence complies with the control and sanction responsibilities of the judicial authorities. Additionally, it seeks to be an exemplary sanction for potential offenders, and sets a precedent that should be used in similar cases.