Visa Inc. lent its support to an Interpol-coordinated global law enforcement effort aimed at shutting down illegal online pharmacies.

Visa, illegal online pharmacies, rogue online pharmacies, Interpol, Operation Pangea III, counterfeit drugs, illegal medicines, Visa Europe, International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce, IMPACT, Michael Smith, Stanley Skoglund

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Visa aids in operation targeting rogue online pharmacies

October 15th, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO – Visa Inc. lent its support to an Interpol-coordinated global law enforcement effort aimed at shutting down illegal online pharmacies.

The payment card giant said Thursday that the Interpol action, dubbed Operation Pangea III, targeted the online sale of counterfeit drugs and illegal medicines and led to arrests worldwide and the seizure of thousands of potentially harmful medicines.

According to Visa, the operation, which took place Oct. 5 to 12 in more than 40 countries, is the largest of its kind in support of the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT). Visa and Visa Europe joined customs agencies, regulators and Internet service providers around the globe to provide investigative support and information to help law enforcement agencies identify and build cases against illegal pharmacies, also known as "rogue" online pharmacies.

"This is a clear message to rogue online pharmacies around the world: You have no refills left," Michael Smith, global risk executive at Visa Inc., said in a statement.

"While the vast majority of e-commerce merchants operate legitimate businesses, there are some online pharmacies that sell illegal, counterfeit products that endanger public health and erode trust in the payment system by defrauding consumers," Smith explained. "We work with law enforcement agencies such as Interpol and support their crucial investigations to ensure that illegal activity does not threaten the integrity of the Visa payment system and harm cardholders."

The company added that in the wake of Operation Pangea III, Visa Inc. and Visa Europe reminded financial institution clients of Visa rules requiring them to review the sales practices of their merchant clients and prevent illegal transactions. Visa noted that it doesn't limit specific types of goods or services purchased by Visa cardholders or sold by Visa-accepting merchants, but all transactions must comply with applicable laws in both the country of the buyer and of the seller.

"Visa has a framework in place to require financial institutions that work with online merchants to ensure e-commerce transactions are legal," stated Stanley Skoglund, senior vice president of payment system risk for Visa Europe. "However, it is law enforcement actions such as Operation Pangea III that have the most significant effect on rogue pharmacies that potentially harm consumers. We're pleased to be able to support Interpol and global law enforcement and help curb the problem of illegal pharmaceutical sales."