A group of Asian men, including a father-son duo, have been convicted of running what the Metropolitan Police described as a large-scale fake pharmaceuticals drugs factory in west London.
The Cyber Crime Unit of the Met Police said it led an investigation after receiving intelligence from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that the men were selling pharmaceutical drugs on the dark web.
Allen Valentine, his son Roshan and the latter’s childhood friend, Krunal Patel, made and sold Benzodiazepines, a type of sedative which is a class C controlled drug.
The police said they made at least £3.5 million in illicit profit with this operation. The three also had several accounts on different dark web markets and advertised the sale of Xanax, Diazepam and, in the past, Valium.
An investigation launched in January 2022 led detectives to a warehouse unit at Acton Business Park in west London, where the drugs were produced, packaged and supplied.
The three men operated under the guise of a company called Puzzle Logistics Limited, set up in 2016, the Met Police said.
The three visited the unit on a daily basis, often staying for much of the day. Patel would frequently leave with large bags, returning 10 to 15 minutes later without the contents of the bags.
Users would purchase the drugs on the dark web, paying in cryptocurrency, which was then posted.
Detectives used specialist cyber tactics to prove it was the Valentines and Patel who were making and selling the illegal substances.
They determined the three men converted £3.5 million from cryptocurrency into fiat currency or pound sterling, and the accounts were frozen by police.
On August 17, 2022, Patel was arrested near the warehouse, with 15 parcels labelled for posting to addresses across the UK.
Inside those parcels were tablets imprinted “Xanax” and “Teva”, both brand names for licensed medicines within the Benzodiazepine group.
Roshan and Allen Valentine were arrested later that same day.
Officers searched the warehouse and found a concealed laboratory where a large amount of equipment and several containers of chemical substances were discovered, along with numerous crates of pills manufactured on site.
The pills were analysed and found to contain Class C drugs from the Benzodiazepine group including Deschloroetizolam, Flubromazepam, Bromazolam and Flualprazolam.
The Met Police said its enquiries are currently ongoing to verify claims made by Allen Valentine to the jury that he was a doctor with qualifications in pharmacy.
“The three men ran a sophisticated, large-scale production of fake pharmaceutical drugs sold on the dark web that appeared to be genuine,” said Detective Constable Alex Hawkins, of the Met Police’s Cyber Crime Unit, who led the investigation.
“Their operation was solely for the greed of those involved bearing no concern for the vulnerabilities of those purchasing these drugs. Some of the drugs contained completely different chemicals from those which should be in the genuine tablets; some of them are extremely dangerous,” he added.
Hawkins said the investigation led to the first seizure of these chemicals in the UK and legislation will be amended later this year to include these drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act as Class A banned substances.
All three men were charged with conspiracy to produce Class C drugs and money laundering offences in August last year.
Krunal Patel, 40, and Roshan Valentine, 39, pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court earlier this year while Allen Valentine, 62, pleaded not guilty to the drugs offences and was found guilty last week following a trial at the same court.
All three will be sentenced at a later date and a confiscation hearing to legally obtain their illegal profits will take place in due course.
“Stopping the manufacturing of these drugs has removed a significant risk to the public. We would like to thank pharmaceutical companies Viatris and Teva UK for assisting the Met in our investigation and supporting our prosecution against these dangerous and fraudulent men,” Hawkins said.
“I’d urge anyone to seek medical advice and obtain a prescription for medication through a doctor. If you buy from the dark web there is no guarantee what is in the substances, as with this case.”