A NAGPUR-BASED pharmaceutical exporter was arrested in Prague in the Czech Republic on June 3 for allegedly supplying drugs prohibited in the United States. Jitendra Belani was arrested by US drug authorities at Prague Airport after they laid a trap.
The arrest was confirmed by officials of the Nagpur Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), who conducted searches at Belani’s company in Nagpur, Lee HPL Ventures Private Limited.
According to sources, US authorities had failed to lure Belani to the US with a big purchase offer, so they sent a decoy customer from Prague and managed to snare him. The operation was conducted in concert with Czech authorities, sources said.
P N Shende, assistant commissioner, FDA Nagpur, said, “The company exports medicines to many countries, including the US. It gets the medicines manufactured from some companies based at Bandipur in Himachal Pradesh.” He said they will check the stock of medicines. “We give licences to store the drugs. So our enquiry will be restricted to only if proper records are maintained and if the stocks are of desired quality and are being properly handled or not. We have sent the samples to our lab in Mumbai. If any discrepancies are found, we will take action.”
According to Shende, exporters get an Indian Export Code to export their stocks. “So, Belani was exporting medicines to many countries, including the US, where some of those drugs are prohibited. That may have entailed the action against him,” he said.
Since medical treatment is costly in the US, there is a big market for cheap medicines from countries like India. The drugs that Belani is alleged to have exported are tapentadol, modafilin, tramadol and carisopodrol. These have tranquilising, aphrodisiacal and analgesic effects on patients and are in the “controlled” category in the US.
Sources said that the purchaser must provide a medical prescription to allow the consignment to be shipped, and the Customs Department has to check that. How the contentious drugs could evade customs officials in India is not known, source said.
Belani has been in the business in partnership with his wife, Ritika, since 2012, Shende said.
Belani’s lawyer, Shyam Devani, said, “The drugs that he exported are properly certified here in India. Some of them may be banned in the US, which had sought Belani’s extradition from Prague. We will see how we can oppose it.”
Nagpur has more than 15 pharmaceutical exporters and authorities haven’t ruled out the possibility that others are also exporting prohibited medicines.