Two businessmen caught flooding Barcelona’s supermarkets with fake condoms

Catalan police say the individuals have sold 15,000 packs of the counterfeit Durex products and 41,000 more without proper EU accreditation

Preservativos intervenidos por Mossos
The condom packs seized by the Catalan regional police force.AUDIOVISUALS
Alfonso L. Congostrina

The Catalan regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, have reported the managers of two wholesale drug companies for distributing fake condoms. According to the investigation, since 2018 the two companies have sold 15,000 packs of fake condoms to small supermarkets in Barcelona and another 41,000 condoms without accreditation for sale in Europe. The two men accused are aged 48 and 53, and are of Spanish and Pakistani nationality, respectively.

The investigation was launched in response to a complaint filed by an individual who had bought a pack of condoms, supposedly Durex brand, from a grocery store in the Barcelona neighborhood of Les Corts. The man noticed that the condoms were much shorter than the ones he had previously used from the same brand and contacted the Spanish Medical Agency (AEMPS), which works under the Health Ministry.

There were spelling mistakes such as ‘eral’ sex instead of ‘oral’ on the box
Sargent Xavier Tarrés, head of the Mossos d’Esquadra’s consumption unit

AEMPS collected the pack and sent it to Durex to see if the condoms were real. They were not. This was the first known occasion of fake condoms being sold in Spain, according to Sargent Xavier Tarrés, the head of the Mossos d’Esquadra’s consumer unit.

The Catalan police officers discovered that the fake condoms were being sold in packs with 12 units under the Durex Natural Comfort brand. The lot number was 1000221414 and the expiration date was between 2024 and 2025. The batch number was copied from the original, but the expiration date was not the same as the regulatory one. “What’s more, there were spelling mistakes such as ‘eral’ sex instead of ‘oral’ on the box. The condom wrappers didn’t have the image of the hour glass that appears on the originals,” explained Tarrés.

On May 12, officers, accompanied by health inspectors, searched the supermarket in Les Corts and found several boxes with the number of the fake lot. They also found another style, Durex Dame Placer (lot number 1000603437, expiry date 2024-25), that had also been counterfeited. The officers took away several condom brands and models of several condoms because they did not have the CE marking, which certifies that the products meet European health standards. During the investigation, police seized 700 packs of fake condoms and 11,700 that lacked the CE certification mark.

During the investigation, police seized 700 packs of fake condoms

The Mossos discovered that the counterfeit products were also being sold in other small supermarkets in Barcelona. According to police, workers from these establishments would buy the condoms from street vendors who worked with the wholesale drug companies. The purchases were made without any health guarantees or even legal receipts.

Through further investigation, officers were able to locate the first main distribution point, which was the sales warehouse of a drug company in Sant Adrià del Besòs in Barcelona. The manager of this warehouse was not acting alone – he had an accomplice in a similar store in the Barcelona neighborhood of Santa Perpètua de la Mogoda. According to their receipt records, both companies had distributed more than 15,000 packs of fake condoms since 2018. Police do not know how many of these were distributed to street vendors. According to Tarrés, officers have not been able to track down the source of the counterfeit condoms, but all signs indicate that they came from China. The condom packs that did not have the CE marking were made in factories in India and distributed by a company in the Netherlands.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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