Harshest-ever sentence imposed in drug counterfeiting case

A two-year prison term, followed by a 12-month suspended sentence, has been imposed upon the defendant by the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court in State of Israel v Benjamin Chaim (December 10, 2007). The court also imposed a fine of IS50,000.

The defendant had been convicted of dealing in counterfeit prescription drugs for treating male impotence over the course of three years. The sentence - which is the harshest ever imposed in a drug counterfeiting case in Israel - was issued by the court as part of a plea bargain sought by the prosecution.

Earlier in 2007, the court had imposed a sentence of 15 months’ imprisonment followed by a suspended 12-month sentence on the defendant in State of Israel v Perach. The court had also ordered the defendant in this case to pay a fine of IS70,000.

Despite the severity of the sentence in Chaim, the court pointed out that it was too lenient in light of the potential affect of the defendant’s acts on public health. Moreover, the court noted that, in the absence of a set precedent for sentencing in counterfeiting cases, the sentences currently imposed failed to act as a deterrent.

Considering the risks to public health, the damage to Israel’s reputation and the losses suffered by drug manufacturers, the court concluded that heavier penalties should be imposed. According to the court, only long prison terms (measured in years rather than months) and heavy fines exceeding the financial gains of the offenders would be appropriate.

Despite these objections, the court approved the sentence recommended by the prosecution as part of the plea bargain. The court took into consideration: 

  • the fact that the defendant had cooperated with the prosecution; 
  • the defendant’s advanced age; and 
  • his clean criminal record.

The court also took into consideration the fact that the defendant was being sued for IS1 million in damages by a large international pharmaceutical company. Moreover, it was anticipated that another large drug manufacturer would file a similar suit in the near future. Therefore, the court considered that the public interest would be served.

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