For the cancer drugs mafia life did not matter: two nurses in a big public hospital in Athens would give to patients a smaller dose of medication than needed and they would forward the rest of the quantity to the other members of the criminal cancer drugs gang.
“Imagine three patients undergoing chemotherapy with expensive anti-cancer drugs at the same time. Each would need 500 ml from the drug. The nurses would give just 300ml to each patient and steal 600 ml on behalf of the mafia,” an officer from the Financial Police Department described one of the unscrupulous ways the cancer drugs smugglers would in the name of the profit.
Another way the drug mafia used to illegally obtain the expensive cancer drugs was through forged prescriptions issued in the name of “fake cancer patients”. The fake patients would obtain the drugs from the public pharmacies and hand them over to the mafia.
The risk for public health was even bigger due to the poor storage conditions of the stolen anti-cancer drugs and their export to Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
For storage the drug mafia was using the refrigerator of a flower shop in Pangrati and of a fish-shop in Kallithea.
The cost of the drugs was between €1,000 and €6,000 in Greece, and two to three times higher in European countries where the criminals would export them.
The total profit for the gang that was in operation since 2013, is estimated to be around 25 million euros.
So far, police has arrested 21 people. Among them are the three leading gang members: a 70-year-old Egyptian national who is permanent resident of Germany and who is believed to be the ringleader; a 64-year-old Greek man, known to police due to his criminal record for small scale fraud and a 57-year-old Greek woman, manager at a pharmacy in Athens.
Among the arrested are reportedly ten doctors, two of them working in a private clinic and three nurse, two working in a public hospital in Athens and one in Messologhi.
According to Greek police the Egyptian ringleader owned a pharmaceutical company in Egypt through which he exported cancer drugs to Greece through virtual invoices. In fact, however, he exported the drugs to the above mentioned countries, through a pharmacy he owned in Athens.
The Egypt company has issued virtual invoices worth 25,000,000 euros, police said.
A total of 14,401 anti-cancer drugs left for abroad, while the total loss for the Greek state is 13,600,000 euros.
The majority of cancer drugs are available only through Greece’s state hospitals due to their high cost, which is subsidized by the Greek public health service.
During the police operation drugs worth 307,258 euros and 63,815 euros in cash have been seized.
Police is investigating whether any cancer patients were affected and they received less medication than they should.
Meanwhile, on social media several Greeks said that they have missed chemotherapy sessions due to medicine shortage.