The Times
5 July 2001


Five drums of the anti-impotence drug Viagra with an estimated value of up to UKP 3 million have been stolen from Heathrow airport.

About 230lb of the drug, which was in powder form, disappeared as it was being transported through the terminal complex en route from Brussels to Puerto Rico.

Police say there is huge demand for black-market Viagra, which is turned into capsules, blended with Ecstasy and sold as a recreational rave drug which is known as "sexstasy".

Detective Sergeant Roger Moxey of Scotland Yard's Heathrow Airport crime squad said: "When this kicked off I thought the market must be pharmaceutical, but it's the club scene. It's being taken along with Ecstasy by clubbers. I have no idea what effect that has.

"This was definitely an organised conspiracy. The thieves knew exactly what they were going for," he said.

Police last week retrieved 6,000 capsules, each containing between 80 and 100 milligrams of Viagra, which they believe was from the Heathrow batch. The capsules were being sold in nightclubs for around UKP 12 each.

The official value of the stolen Viagra consignment is almost UKP 3 million, but its street value is estimated to be much higher. Some clubbers are reported to be paying as much as UKP 20 for a tablet.

Insurers for Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra, have put up a UKP 20,000 reward for information about the theft.

Viagra was licensed in September 1998 and made available on NHS prescription the following year.

Two men, Andrew Smith and Steven Benham, appeared before Uxbridge Magistrates Court yesterday charged with handling UKP 2,700,000 worth of sildenafil citrate, the chemical name for Viagra, stolen from Heathrow last year, as well as possession of a firearm and ammunition.

The theft occurred as five palettes were in transit. All five palettes landed at the airport but one containing five drums later went missing.

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