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MEMPHIS: FedEx Corporation has denied allegations by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that it has been involved in drug trafficking by carrying shipments on behalf of illegal Internet-based pharmacies.

In making the announcement, the U.S. Attorney for Northern California Melinda Haag (below) said: "This indictment highlights the importance of holding corporations that knowingly enable illegal activity responsible for their role in aiding criminal behaviour."

Melinda HaagLast year UPS paid US$40 million and signed a "Non-Prosecution Agreement" to avoid charges for allegedly similar behaviour. At the time Haag declared she was "pleased with the steps UPS has taken to stop the use of its shipping services by illegal on-line pharmacies".

Both Integrators said in 2013 regulatory filings that they were subject to a federal investigation.

In response to the DOJ, FedEx senior vice president Marketing and Communications Patrick Fitzgerald declared the company innocent of the charge and said it would defend "this attack on the integrity and good name of FedEx and its employees".

Fitzgerald pointed out the government had failed to respond to several FedEx requests for a list of illegal online pharmacies so the company could "turn off" services. "We want to be clear what's at stake here: the government is suggesting that FedEx assume criminal responsibility for the legality of the contents of the millions of packages that we pick up and deliver every day.

"We are a transportation company – we are not law enforcement. We have no interest in violating the privacy of our customers. We continue to stand ready and willing to support and assist law enforcement. We cannot, however, do the job of law enforcement ourselves," he added.

Haag's latest prosecution is based on a campaign begun in 2005 to shut down illegal Internet-based pharmacies. Last year her office announced nine people had been convicted for distributing controlled substances. Most received prison terms in addition to forfeiting a total of US$94 million.

FedEx said it has a long history of cooperating with law enforcement and the DOJ move was now putting at risk the privacy of customers who ship more than 10 million packages a day with the company.

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