A joint press conference with the World Customs Organization was held in Paris on October 25, 2012 to announce the results of the intervention.

VICE GRIPS 2 at a glance

  • Dates
    July 11 to 20, 2012.
    Three days’ training from July 11 to 13 in Lome, Togo, followed by 5 days of customs interventions from July 16 to 20.
  • 16 countries
    16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo Republic, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya.
  • 16 seaports
    Abidjan, Conakry, Cotonou, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Douala, Lagos, Libreville, Lome, Luanda, Maputo, Matadi, Mombasa, Monrovia, Pointe Noire and Tema.
  • Intervention
    84 containers and 104,408,652 products were intercepted. 82.4 million illicit and/or counterfeit pharmaceuticals were seized, i.e.79% of the products intercepted.
    The total value of the products seized was estimated at more than $40 million[1].
  • Origin
    82% of the products intercepted came from China and 8% from India.

An operation on an unprecedented scale involving customs in 16 African countries

Counterfeit and misrepresented medicines are a serious threat to safety and public health in Africa. With such an escalation in trafficking and the spread of new counterfeiting techniques, customs are on the frontlines to fight the scourge and protecting consumers.

It was therefore with the support of International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM) that the World Customs Organization (WCO) organized a major operation against counterfeit health products in Africa’s key ports in July 2012: operation VICE GRIPS 2.

During this operation 16 customs agencies in Africa worked together in major African seaports for 5 days to simultaneously surveil shipments likely to contain counterfeit or illicit health products posing a probable threat to local people.

Before the operation, local customs officials were trained for 3 days to spot which different products would most likely be counterfeit. They also worked with WCO experts in the field to familiarize themselves with new investigative methods.

In 5 days, over 82 million counterfeit health products seized, worth over $40 million

After entering Africa through criminal techniques identical to those used by drug traffickers and criminal organizations, massive quantities of counterfeit medicines (malaria drugs, antiparasitics, antibiotics, morning after pills, infertility treatments, generic products, cough syrups, etc.) were discovered in several countries including Angola, Togo, Cameroon and Ghana.

These results are alarming proof of the extent of medicine trafficking in Africa. If extrapolated, nearly 10 billion counterfeit medicines, worth almost $5 billion, enter Africa each year. These figures confirm the urgent need to raise general awareness and implement measures to fight the problem.

Operation VICE GRIPS 2 achieved several positive outcomes:

  • It discovered new vectors and new criminal techniques which will serve to help adapt crime prevention methods;
  • It trained local customs officers in new risk analysis and targeting techniques in real life situations;
  • It ascertained the extent and nature of counterfeit medicine trafficking in Africa.


See press release “Customs blitz on illegal medicines in Africa. Trafficking of counterfeit medicines poses serious threat to health of Africans”. 

[1] Approximate value $0.50/drug