September 8, 2005

China police bust Sino-US fake Viagra gang

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police on Thursday hailed the bust of a Sino-US piracy ring making fake Viagra, but denied using arrests of Americans or other foreign nationals to publicise the fight against piracy, which the United States says China is losing.

Chinese and U.S. authorities had cooperated to crack the ring, with one American and 11 Chinese arrested as recently as last week on charges of producing 440,000 pills of fake Viagra, Cialis and other drugs worth 40 million yuan if sold as real, Ministry of Public Security officials said in Beijing.

Chinese media last year ran wide coverage of the ministry's arrest of two U.S. citizens for selling pirated DVDs online and again for their April sentencing by a Shanghai court. The men were fined and jailed for up to 30 months.

"It is not that we will hype a case because it is committed by citizens from a certain country... and it is not unusual for crimes in the US to be reported by the media," Gao Feng, deputy director of the ministry's Economic Crimes Investigation Division, told a news conference.

"Everyone is equal before the law. No matter whether he is American, Chinese or from other countries, as long as he has committed crimes, he has to be punished by the law."

Pirated DVDs are peddled on street corners across China at prices as low as 5 yuan.

U.S. trade officials have said counterfeiting of everything from DVDs to clothes to golf clubs in China has become worse since Beijing passed tougher anti-piracy guidelines because authorities are reluctant to crack down.

Some 1,804 cases of trademark infringement and counterfeit production have been cracked in China's year-long "Mountain Eagle" operation and 3,667 people have been arrested, Chinese officials said at the news conference.

Viagra is a product of the U.S. company Pfizer Inc.