A Winnipeg man faces extradition to the United States following his arrest in connection to an investigation into counterfeit cancer drugs.
Kristjan Thorkelson, chief executive officer of CanadaDrugs.com, was among six Canadians arrested June 14 and 15 in Manitoba and British Columbia under the Extradition Act.
Thorkelson, Thomas Haughton, Ronald Sigurdson, Darren Chalus, Troy Nakamura and James Trueman are accused of importing and selling $78 million of unapproved, counterfeit and misbranded drugs to American doctors.
Winnipeg-based CanadaDrugs.com is still in operation and is licensed by the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba.
The company describes itself as offering "distance-based pharmacy care" since 2001. Its founder, Thorkelson, a graduate of the University of Manitoba, was part of a team that grew the business rapidly by pioneering online sales of drugs and by buying up smaller pharmacies throughout the 1990s.
Thorkelson, CanadaDrugs.com and affiliated companies and associates are accused of selling counterfeit drugs between 2009 and 2012.
"Canada Drugs purchased its inventory from questionable sources and ultimately sold counterfeit versions of the drugs Altuzan and Avastin to physicians," court documents claim.
Thorkelson is accused in court documents of orchestrating the criminal enterprise surrounding the company and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The allegations have not been proven in court.
Thorkelson, Haughton, Sigurdson, Chalus and Nakamura were released on bail. They have surrendered their passports and agreed to not move without notifying authorities.
All of the accused, minus Trueman, are represented by Winnipeg lawyers. Thorkelson’s lawyer did not return a request for comment on the case Monday.
They are scheduled to appear in court July 12.
The men will be committed for extradition if a judge decides American authorities have provided enough evidence to go to trial. That decision will be made by federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, although an appeal could be pursued.
Canadians can be extradited only if the allegations are recognized as criminal by both countries involved.
In 2012, the Winnipeg-based company denied claims it was connected to the case, saying it did not sell Avastin. However, a CanadaDrugs.com manager went on to acknowledge shipping and distributing Avastin — although he claimed he was unaware the drug was counterfeit. The drug was found to contain acetone and corn starch, but no active ingredients.
American authorities charged the company and its affiliates with international money laundering, conspiracy and the smuggling of goods into the U.S. in 2014. River East Supplies, a United Kingdom affiliate of the company, is accused of falsifying customs documents in an effort to hide the product.