FedEx says it will plead not guilty to the charges. Photo: AP
Memphis, Tennessee: A federal grand jury in California has indicted FedEx on charges of shipping prescription drugs for illegal online pharmacies.
The Memphis carrier said it would plead not guilty.
The indictment is based on a multi-year investigation of US Drug Enforcement Administration claims that FedEx and rival United Parcel Service aided and abetted illegal online drug sales by not having proper controls over their shipments.
UPS paid $US40 million ($42.7 million) to settle with the US Justice Department last year but FedEx vowed to fight on the principle it had done nothing wrong.
"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," Patrick Fitzgerald, FedEx senior vice-president marketing and communications, said.
"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."
The statement also said: "FedEx transports more than 10 million packages a day. The privacy of our customers is essential to the core of our business. This privacy is now at risk, based on the charges by the Department of Justice related to the transportation of prescription medications."
FedEx officials have called for an industry-wide solution to the problem, the equivalent of a "No Fly" list for online pharmacies.