Dane convicted in large case of smuggling of dopingNovember 23, 2019
Cooperation between authorities across countries has led to Danish Jacob Sporon-Fiedler on 14 November being sentenced to five years and four months imprisonment for smuggling doping substances into the UK in a case known as the world's largest.
In London, Jacob Sporon-Fiedler was sentenced to five years and four months in prison for smuggling 16 tonnes of doping drugs worth 12 million pounds, especially anabolic steroids, to the UK.
The sentencing marks the end of several years of investigation, which was based on a major seizure of anabolic steroids at Heathrow Airport in London in 2014. The British National Crime Agency has been leading the investigation but cooperating with authorities in over 26 countries, including the Customs Agency, Police and Anti Doping Denmark in Denmark, helped to resolve the matter.
“The case shows how far we can go if forces across authorities and countries work together. We need to think out of the silos of this type of cross-border crime, where we are up against the major distributors of banned drugs, ”says Michael Ask, Director of Anti-Doping Denmark.
The case revealed a complex distribution system aimed at shipping the banned substances across the borders from India where production of these drugs is allowed.
“The case has shown that there is a huge market for doping substances. When ADD must work to prevent the use of e.g. Anabolic steroids, it is important that our work is supported by efforts against the distributors, which makes it too easy to obtain these drugs in Denmark as well, ”says Michael Ask and continues:
“As the situation is now, production and distribution of doping substances in Denmark are associated with a low risk of being caught in relation to the income opportunities. This area should be prioritized by the police, making it more difficult to introduce doping substances in Denmark. "
Jacob Sporon-Fiedler is responsible for the company Alpha-Pharma, which has for many years been a well-known manufacturer of doping substances, including particularly anabolic steroids. He pleaded guilty in 2018. Since then, lawsuits have run against some of the other defendants in the case. Four others are in the same case complex, which also includes doping production, sentenced to between two and six years. None of these are Danish.
UKAD supports decision
UK Anti-Doping work supports case which sees pharma boss who ran “world’s biggest” anabolic steroid distribution network jailed for five years and four months.
- Jacob Sporon-Fiedler, sentenced to five years and four months for conspiring to import steroids
- Gurjaipal Dhillon, sentenced to five years for conspiring to import steroids
- Nathan Selcon, sentenced to six years for conspiring to import steroids and conspiring to manufacture steroids
- Mohammed Afzal, sentenced to two years for conspiring to manufacture steroids
- Alexander MacGregor, to be sentenced for conspiring to manufacture steroids at a later date
Sporon-Fiedler worked with a network of UK-based fixers, including Gurjaipal Dhillon, 65, and Nathan Selcon, 44, to transport dozens of unlicensed shipments of drugs from India into Europe, and distribute them. Dhillon and Selcon have been sentenced to five years for conspiring to import steroids, and six years for both conspiring to import steroids and conspiring to manufacture steroids respectively.
The NCA investigation identified around 42 tonnes of importations of illicit anabolic steroids into the UK, destined for the body-building and fitness markets.
NCA officers were able to directly link Jacob Sporon-Fiedler, 38, the CEO of Indian-based company Alpha Pharma, to around 16 tonnes of those imports, with an estimated value of around £12m.
Speaking following the sentencing, UK Anti-Doping’s (UKAD) Director of Operations, Pat Myhill said: “We are very pleased with the outcome of this investigation. Our congratulations go to the team at the NCA for a successful resolution to this complicated case, which has identified significant distribution of Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPEDs). Not only are these drugs a threat to clean sport, but they pose a very real danger to health.
“We were very happy to support the NCA in the investigation, especially in the early stages. The case demonstrates why excellent working relationships with law enforcement agencies are required to combat the varied threats to clean sport and, as a result, we have significantly reduced the supply chain of these image and performance enhancing substances.
“UKAD regularly receives intelligence reports from Border Force about substances that they’ve seized. In this case, we saw a seizure of more than 1,000 kilos of performance enhancing drugs at Heathrow Airport. We were able to research the origins and the destinations and identified four more shipments, totalling five tonnes. We made contact with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and our Danish colleagues to create a bigger picture which helped to initiate the NCA’s full investigation.”
NCA investigators then began to piece together the movement of dozens of unlicensed shipments of drugs, many of which were organised by Dhillon.
The illegally imported drugs - made by Sporon-Fiedler’s pharmaceutical company in India – were shipped using Dhillon’s contacts. Once in the UK they would be distributed by Selcon to be sold to body builders and fitness fanatics on the black market.
Selcon also had links to two other men, Alexander MacGregor and Mohammed Afzal, who had set up a purpose built illicit steroid laboratory to manufacture their own branded drugs. Inside the labs raw powder would be converted into a liquid solution that could be injected and sold in vials.
Two such laboratories were identified. One operating on an industrial estate in Harmondsworth was raided and shut down by the NCA in March 2015. Sporon-Fiedler had visited the facility shortly after being released on bail following his arrest at Heathrow airport. Evidence indicated it had been running for around four years, and officers found packaging and labelling for around £43m-worth of anabolic steroids.
NCA investigators were also able to prove links between the gang and another site in Slough which had produced steroids worth around £10m before it was raided by Thames Valley Police in 2009.
Selcon, Afzal and MacGregor were found guilty of conspiring to manufacture steroids on 4 April 2019, following a two-month trial at the Old Bailey.
Dhillon was found guilty of conspiring to import steroids on 5 June 2019 following a separate trial. Sporon-Fiedler and Selcon had already admitted the charge.
NCA branch commander David Cunningham said: “This organised crime group was the most prolific of its kind ever uncovered, likely the biggest global players in the illicit anabolic steroid market.
“They had the ability to move tonnes of steroids into Europe where they would be sold on the black market, making tens of millions of pounds in profit.
“We have managed to directly link Sporon-Fiedler to 16 tonnes of illegal steroids imported into the UK, however it is likely this group were responsible for far more. Intelligence supplied by the NCA has triggered multiple seizures and criminal investigations by law enforcement partners across Europe.
“The important thing to remember is that all of these drugs were completely unregulated and unchecked, therefore they posed potentially major health risks to those who used them.”
The NCA investigation drew on assistance from 30 different agencies in 26 different countries, including UKAD, Border Force, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Danish police and German customs.