A former professional snooker player has been jailed for his part in an international fake erectile dysfunction medication operation.
After pleading guilty James Michie, the one-time British Open semi-finalist, had claimed his refusal to throw a match in the Far East led him to become involved in the scam as a debt to his contacts in the region.
Michie, of Millers Croft, Ackworth, was today sentenced to three years and four months for importing fake and unlicensed erectile dysfunction medicine.
Many of the tablets and jellies included sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient in Viagra.
Other offences Michie was convicted of include contravening trademark laws, money laundering and handling stolen goods.
Judge Penelope Belcher handed his co-accused Mark Parkinson 34 months and Anthony Cunningham a 12-month community order respectively for their roles in two separate operations.
An investigation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found that Michie imported more than 1.2 million unlicensed erectile dysfunction tablets and more than 141,000 other illegal medicines including diazepam, worth over £3.5m. He later accepted payment for their sale.
Between December 2008 and April 2010 Michie partnered up with his snooker pal Parkinson and used contacts in China, Hong Kong and India to bring in the medicines.
Judge Belcher told Leeds Crown Court: “You James Michie and Mark Parkinson were known to each other through snooker and one way or another had contacts in the Far East who were willing to supply medical products on a wholesale basis.”
She added: “Between you, you devised a method of importing the goods and intended to evade the authorities.”
The drugs were sent to addresses using the names of people who did not live at the homes.
But Michie made an arrangement with two Parcelforce delivery men whereby, instead of them taking the packages to the homes, they were handed to Michie and Parkinson for a fee.
The court was told that one of the delivery men handed Parkinson between 15-25 parcels a week and the other gave Michie around 20 per week.
They were paid around £5 for every parcel they delivered, the court heard.
However in October 2009 authorities intercepted 74 parcels of fake or unlicensed medicines, branded as Kamagra, and other types of medicine coming into the UK.
In February 2010, two groups of nine parcels were again intercepted by authorities at Parcelforce Worldwide in Coventry.
Records were found in Parkinson’s home in Ashworth Road, Pontefract, about sales to countries including Austria and Germany – including a package sent from a Post Office in Castleford.
Phone logs revealed contacts in Mumbai linked to where some of the parcels originated.
Judge Belcher told Parkinson: “You were an important player in this,”
Michie and Parkinson were both arrested and bailed – but Michie continued with a second operation with Cunningham between November 2011 and March 2012.
Judge Belcher told the court that Cunningham stashed parcels at his homes on Halfpenny Lane in Pontefract and Mount Pleasant Street in Featherstone, making around £1,440 in total from Michie.
But she said he only had a “peripheral” role in the operation.
Seventy-two parcels were later intercepted after being sent from abroad through Royal Mail and DHL.
Judge Belcher told the court how money was also transferred though Western Union accounts.
Michie “personally collected 24 transactions between 2010 to 2012,” she said.
The court was told how after a further arrest Michie pleaded guilty and claimed that the operation had started when contacts in the Far East asked him to purposely lose a snooker match.
He refused and as a result was made to take part in the international dealings to pay his debt.
Judge Belcher sentenced James Andrew Michie, 44, to 40 months consecutively for eight counts. They related to conspiracy to import medicinal products without a licence, money laundering, conspiracy to commit Trade Marks Act offences and handling stolen goods.
Mark Parkinson, 45, of Estcourt Road, Darrington, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 34 months consecutively for conspiracy to import medicinal products without a licence and conspiracy to commit Trade Marks Act offences.
Anthony Cunningham, 48, of Minden Way, Pontefract, also pleaded guilty and was handed a 12-month community order and told to do 200 hours unpaid work for conspiracy to import medicinal products without a licence and conspiracy to commit Trade Marks Act offences.
MHRA head of enforcement Alastair Jeffrey said: “The scale and organisation of this criminal enterprise demonstrates the determination of the individuals involved to profit from the illegal sales of medicines.
“Criminals who illegally supply medicines are not concerned with the health of their customers – they only want their money.
“To protect your health, visit your GP, get a correct diagnosis and buy medicines from a legitimate high street or registered pharmacy which can trade online.”