Antoine Christopher Kolias (31), was sentenced on Friday 28 June to a total of three and a half years’ imprisonment. During the CEU investigation, Operation Bentley, Kolias was found to be acting as a distributor for an established unlicensed medicines dealer, as well as running his own unlicensed medicines business, selling quantities of sildenafil citrate (the active ingredient in Viagra) as well as Class C drugs tramadol, zopiclone and pregabalin between the summer of 2018 and October 2019, and again between 2020 and 2021.

During a three-week trial at Southwark Crown Court the court heard how Kolias, after his first arrest, began selling products containing sildenafil on Amazon and eBay marketplaces, claiming the products were a ‘100% natural remedy’ and ‘risk free’. He ordered and designed his own packaging, selling the products under his own brand names; Vital-X, VigoreX and Vowex.

Kolias’ activities came to the attention of the CEU following the interception of a series of parcels by UK Border Force officers during routine checks at airports and throughout the postal system.

In October 2019, warrants were executed at two residential addresses and two storage facilities connected to Kolias in North London and Manchester. During a search of the London address, CEU officers found 97,000 tablets ranging from products marketed as treatments for erectile dysfunction to Class C drugs, tramadol and zopiclone.

After appearing in court following the seizure of the medicines at the London property, and while he was on bail, the court heard he re-established his unlicensed medicines business. A further four parcels, originating in China and containing more than 170,000 doses in total, were intercepted by UK Border Force.

The consignments were destined for Kolias’ sister’s address. He had re-established his Amazon sales platform but used a friend’s personal details to set it up. He again sold products containing sildenafil citrate that were marketed as ‘100% natural remedy’ and ‘risk free’, again using his own branding in a product called ‘Evoxa’.

The MHRA advises the public to be careful when buying medicines online. Medicines are not ordinary consumer goods and their sale and supply is tightly controlled. Websites operating outside the legal supply chain may seem tempting, for example, offering a prescription medicine without a prescription. Not only are these sites breaking the law – they’re putting your health at risk.

Criminals use a variety of techniques to sell medicines illegally online. Some are sold using websites designed to look like legitimate pharmacies or online retailers, while others might be advertised via online marketplaces or social media sites.

Visit the #FakeMeds website for tools and resources to help people purchase medicines or medical devices safely online.