A Nigerian couple have avoided jail after admitting selling illegal skin-whitening products online but they racked up a fine of £17,000 (N7,574,680.00) and suspended jail terms.
Jonathan and Holiness Ikpere are thought to have earned hundreds of thousands of pounds from selling banned bleaching concoctions from their home in Towpath Mead, Southsea according to Sky News.
They imported large quantities of cosmetics from countries in West Africa before selling them on and were caught in the UK’s first national investigation into the online sale of dangerous skin-whitening products.
Jonathan Ikpere, a PhD student studying at Portsmouth University, set up various PayPal accounts to collect orders for eBay purchases, which had a turnover of more than £100,000.
Southwark Trading Standards, who led the investigation, seized nearly 3,000 illegal and dangerous skin lightening products from their home.
Paul Gander, team leader of Southwark Trading Standards, said: “The Ikperes imported a large volume of cosmetics from Nigeria and made a small volume themselves on their premises. A lot of this stuff comes into this country from West Africa, Pakistan and even China.
When officers raided their home they discovered a mixing bowl in the kitchen, where the couple’s own brand of skin lighteners were being created.
Holiness Ikpere even marketed the products with her own face on the labels.
Mr Gander added: “The dangerous element of what they were doing were unbelievable. Holiness had no safety or quality control of what she was manufacturing. Cosmetics need to have preservatives in them.
“There needs to be safety assessments carried out which they did not do. She was putting illegal ingredients in the products but not informing customers.”
Those who bought the products risked permanent skin and blood vessel damage and even infection.
The couple pleaded guilty to manufacturing toxic bleaching cosmetics and were fined as well as given 60-hour community service orders each.
Both received suspended sentences, six months for Jonathan and four months for Holiness, suspended for a year.