A dealer of counterfeit Viagra has received a £14.4m confiscation order at Southwark Crown Court, following a six-year probe of his criminal network by a medical-industry watchdog. Manchester resident Simon Hickman had already served two years in prison from 2009 for his offences, which included six counts of selling and applying fake medicines – plus a series of related money-laundering activities that had channelled £1.4m.
Hickman, 49, operated a range of businesses, including an illegal online pharmacy to sell fake Viagra throughout the United Kingdom and abroad. The dealer, believed to have earned around £15,430,000 from his criminality, has six months to make an initial compensation payment of £14,408,000 – or face a default, 10-year prison sentence in addition to time already served.
The probe was spearheaded by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), with assistance from specialist Greater Manchester Police investigators in the North West Regional Asset Recovery Team. The organisations followed Hickman’s elaborate money trail through more than 30 bank accounts in six foreign jurisdictions, including an online casino domained in Malta.
MHRA head of enforcement operations Danny Lee-Frost said: ‘The granting of this confiscation order demonstrates MHRA’s commitment to ensuring that those responsible for the sale and supply of fake and unlicensed medicines will not benefit from their criminality. Fake medicines can be dangerous, and MHRA is determined to protect patients.’
Records obtained during a raid on Hickman’s property by MHRA enforcement officers revealed that, during a business peak from 2003 to 2007, his network turned over in excess of £6m. Investigator Mick Deats, who served as MHRA’s head of enforcement at the time of Hickman’s arrest, said that the offender had enjoyed a lavish lifestyle on the profits made by selling the illegal medicines. ‘People dealing in these types of businesses are criminals – but at the much higher end of the pay scale,’ Deats explained. ‘Mr Hickman has substantially benefitted financially from this unlawful trade.’
Deats added that Hickman ‘appeared to have little respect’ for his customers, and had in his possession a folder titled the ‘Thick People File’, containing paperwork for orders that could not be processed because of insufficient customer details. ‘He is not a healthcare professional,’ said Deats. ‘In fact, he is not professional in any way shape or form. He is simply a money-motivated criminal living a life of luxury at the expense of other people’s health.’
During the investigation, Hickman went so far as to flout a restraining order preventing him from dealing with his assets. During the breach, he sold a London flat without revealing its true selling price and immediately diverted more than £600,000 of proceeds from the sale to an associate.