Fearing Riots, Police Rush Raid on Phony Drugs

Police asked health officials to cut short a raid on 'dirty' Arab pharmacists, fearing Arab riots over Israel's enforcement of the law.

David Lev ,

Phony pharmaceuticals
Phony pharmaceuticals
Health Ministry

Arabs who oppose Israel's existence resent Israel's enforcement of the law – even laws that protect their own lives. In a raid early Thursday morning, police, Health Ministry, and customs officials confiscated thousands of bottles and boxes of phony pharmaceuticals that Arab druggists were selling to their customers – but were told to hurry up before word of the raid got out to Arabs in the area whom police were afraid would riot over Israeli enforcement of laws that in this case most likely saved many lives.

The Health Ministry's pharmaceutical enforcement unit was acting on information from sources that dozens of pharmacies in Arab neighborhoods were selling fake medicines – both prescription and over-the-counter – as well as phony health enhancement and nutrition products. Many of the drugs were apparently manufactured in Arab villages in Judea and Samaria, while others had been imported – mostly from the Far East, a hotbed of pharmaceutical counterfeiting.

Officials raided pharmacies in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and villages in the Jerusalem area, seizing thousands of phony pharmaceuticals in one of the biggest raids in recent years. Ten pharmacists were arrested. Criminal cases are to be opened against them, and the Health Ministry said it would immediately seek to take away their licenses. The Ministry stressed that many of the medicines it seized not only violated international copyrights but were downright dangerous, and that individuals who took them were at real risk of harm or even death.

But Ministry officials were unable to get all the phony goods, because police who were providing security on the raid kept urging them to hurry up and complete their seizures before Arabs from the neighborhood got word of the raid. Speaking to Arutz Sheva, one of the officials said that “in one shop we were in the middle of gathering a large number of bottles of a truly dangerous drug when police cut us off and said we had to go – to make do with whatever we had already gotten because we had to get out of there right away as a riot was likely to ensue very soon.”

Tax Authority officials, meanwhile, inspected the books of the pharmacies and found many inconsistent details. In many instances cash registers simply were not operating; in others the officials found multiple sets of books and in several they found large amounts of cash that the pharmacists could not account for. Officials plan to open cases against the pharmacists for failure to report earnings and income and for failure to keep accurate books.