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The BBC's Geraldine Carroll in Bangkok
on the conference on cross-border organised crime
 real 28k

Tuesday, 21 March, 2000, 17:51 GMT
Thais shut down online pharmacies
Viagra
The websites illegally sold medicines such as Viagra
US and Thai authorities have raided warehouses used by online pharmacies based in Thailand and shut down the websites illegally selling prescription drugs.

United States customs officials and Thai police seized dozens of computers and large quantities of medicines, including Viagra, steroids and tranquillisers.

Medicines are readily available in Thai pharmacies without a prescription, but they cannot be exported without a licence.



Eighty percent of the customers we identified from the Thai data are in the United States

US customs official
Twenty-two people have already been arrested in Thailand, and another six charged in the US with buying medicines from the websites.

The suspects, arrested between last November and this January after a six-month investigation, face up to five years in jail and a 20,000 baht ($526) fine if convicted of violating Thai export regulations.

They could also face charges in the US.

"Eighty percent of the customers we identified from the Thai data are in the United States," said Kevin Delli-Colli of the Customs Service.

The average order was for drugs worth $200.

A US Embassy spokeswoman in Bangkok said the investigation would continue, as more online pharmacies were suspected of operating illegally in Thailand.

In early February, the US Food and Drug Administration sent e-mail warnings to a dozen operators of online pharmacies based overseas, saying that their actions could breach US laws.

Internet crime

As details of the investigation were made public, the United Nations called on international technology companies to join governments to fight crime on the internet.

Delegates at a conference in Bangkok on fighting cross-border crime heard that criminal syndicates were using computer technology to spread their reach around the world.

Jan Van Dijk of the UN Office for Drug and Crime Prevention said that international legislation was needed to allow police to make arrests anywhere in the world.

"The very companies that are spearheading these technological innovations should also help the governments to find the effective methods of protection," he said.

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