At a Proceeds of Crime confiscation hearing before Judge Marrinan at Antrim Crown Court yesterday, Christopher Noel Logan, 54, of Drumbay Road, Cloughmills, Ballymena was ordered to repay £515,000 within three months or to serve two years imprisonment in default of payment.
The confiscation order resulted from Logan’s conviction in 2015, when he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment suspended for five years on each of six charges (to run concurrently) which were before the court.
The charges concerned the large scale illegal supply of prescription-only veterinary medicines from his Cloughmills hardware shop. Logan was also convicted on charges of possessing criminal property under Proceeds of Crime legislation relating to his possession of the proceeds of the sales of the illegal medicines. The illegal activities spanned a five year period between 2009 and late 2013. The prosecution leading to today’s Confiscation Order was brought by the Department of Health’s (DoH) Medicines Regulatory Group (MRG).
In late 2013, supported by the Police Service (PSNI), Department of Health enforcement officers conducted searches at commercial and residential premises in the Cloughmills area of County Antrim, which uncovered evidence of the illegal supply network together with significant amounts of cash.
The drugs supplied in the illegal venture were worth more than £681,000 and included substantial quantities of unauthorised and illegal prescription only veterinary medicines including a range of antibiotics.
Senior Medicines Enforcement Officer Peter Moore, who led the Department of Health investigation, said: “This was a significant criminal enterprise which involved the illegal supply of veterinary medicines onto the black market on a near industrial scale. The likelihood is that many of these illegal veterinary medicines were destined for use in food producing animals, which poses a real risk to the general public.
“This investigation clearly demonstrates our determination to work with key partner agencies, in this case the PSNI, to ensure that an illegal and dangerous medicines supply source has been closed down and today’s substantial Confiscation Order sends out a very clear message that illegal activity such as this will not be tolerated by the courts.”
Following yesterday’s Confiscation Order, PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wilson, said: “A financial investigator from our Economic Crime Unit was appointed to progress confiscation proceedings in this case after a conviction was secured last year. This sterling work has now resulted in a confiscation of over half a million pounds – proof that crime really does not pay. We remain committed to tackling crime with partner agencies and removing any benefits derived from criminality. This substantial confiscation will go into public coffers and a percentage of it will come back to police in the north to be used in the ongoing fight against crime.”
Prof Mike Mawhinney, Head of the Medicines Regulatory Group, DoH, added: “Those involved in animal health and who use veterinary medicines are reminded that they should only source medicines from legal and reputable suppliers. There are clear dangers posed by the indiscriminate and unauthorised use of antibiotics.
“To be imported, possessed and sold for use in the UK, all veterinary medicines must be authorised to ensure they are safe and effective and many must be prescribed by a veterinary surgeon. Even where medicines are authorised they must be distributed and sold through regulated outlets such as pharmacies where trained staff are available to provide the necessary advice on safe use.
“Our advice is clear – don’t be tempted to bypass the regulated supply system. We again thank the public for their continuing support and would appeal to them to continue to report any suspicious activity to us.”