FedEx in the US delivered packages containing illegal prescription drugs for internet pharmacies even after it noticed that authorities were cracking down on the businesses and was told that one had shipped drugs to a woman who committed suicide, prosecutors said this week in a trial over drug trafficking charges against the shipping giant.
FedEx knew drugs in millions of packages it delivered over a decade were illegally prescribed, but shipped them anyway because it did not want to lose millions of dollars in revenue to rival UPS, Assistant US Attorney John Hemann said during his opening statement.
"They faced a choice, and the choice is to stop or go, and time and time again, they went," Hemann said at the trial in San Francisco.
The prosecution plans to rely on FedEx's emails to make its case.
FedEx has denied the charges and says it shipped what it believed were legal drugs from legitimate pharmacies.
In her opening statement, FedEx lawyer Cristina Arguedas said the company helped investigators crack down on the two pharmacies that prosecutors say were involved in the scheme and that it was never told not to ship for a customer.
The trial - nearly two years in the making - is unusual because of the decision to bring drug charges against a package delivery company and for the lack of a settlement.
UPS paid $40 million in 2013 to resolve similar allegations that arose from a yearslong government crackdown on internet pharmacies that ship drugs to customers without valid prescriptions.
The stakes are high for Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx. No FedEx officials are facing prison time, but the charges carry a potential fine of $1.6 billion.
In the early 2000s, prosecutors say, FedEx began conspiring with two internet pharmacy organisations to ship powerful sleep aids, sedatives, painkillers and other drugs to customers who had not been physically examined by a doctor.
The crux of the case is that FedEx knew the drugs were illegal and headed for dealers and addicts but delivered them anyway. Company drivers expressed safety concerns that FedEx trucks were being stopped on the road by online pharmacy customers demanding packages of pills.
FedEx is charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to launder money and other counts.. - AP