Part 4: Is Your Christmas Gift Funding Crime?

Friday, December 13th, 2019

Christmas is a time of gift giving. But is that specially selected gift for your loved one funding criminal activity ? If the gift you purchase happens to be one of the many counterfeited items on sale across our country, then your Christmas gift may just be helping an international criminal network.

Profits from the trade in counterfeit consumer items are increasingly funding the trafficking of drugs and people, and the maintenance of major criminal networks. While this series has already examined pharmaceuticals and cigarettes, the trade in other illicit consumer goods is just as important. From research done on the domestic market in Trinidad, many counterfeited global brands are on sale around our country. Premium brands such as Polo, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Adidas, Louis Vuitton, Coach, Burberry and many others can be found in establishments ranging from our high end malls to suitcase traders.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) previously noted that around the world several operations have been uncovered where proceeds from drug trafficking were channeled into counterfeiting. The profits from these sales were then used to advance further criminal activities.

In our region earlier this year 2019, Interpol through an inter-agency approach was able to seize over 730,000 illicitly traded consumer items in Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama. It is no surprise therefore that many of these fake items have also been found in our country.

The majority of infringements related to counterfeited goods fall under the heading intellectual property (IP) crimes and around the world law enforcement has been increasing its focus on this area. In Trinidad and Tobago the Intellectual Property Office under the office of The Attorney General has been working tirelessly to highlight IP infringements. Around Christmastime The Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards frequently reminds us about the dangers of purchasing sub-standard electrical items which have been known to cause fires. Many of these electrical products are counterfeits.

So here are some tips to protect you from buying counterfeits and innocently supporting criminal networks:

  • Pay attention to the price. If you believe the deal is too good to be true then it probably is. Also be careful of price deals over the internet. A large volume of counterfeited items are being sold online even when the advertisements use the genuine product
  • Does the package appear to be too weak for the product being purchased? This is a definite sign that the item can be fake
  • Are there spelling errors on the label ? Then you are certain the item is counterfeited.
  • Does the label have a country of manufacture and does the product have a serial number that allows it to be traced? If either is missing then be wary
  • Finally, before spending your hard earned money on a product that may be counterfeit you can check the official websites of the brand owners to find credible information on identifying their genuine brands.

However what do you do if you realize that the product you have already purchased is counterfeit? Then you can contact the Intellectual Property Office of Trinidad and Tobago, the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards or the Consumer Affairs Division of The Ministry of Trade and Industry. You may also report your suspicions to both law enforcement and the brand owner for investigation and action.

Finally, remember that suspicions of counterfeited products can be reported anonymously    and safely to Crime Stoppers at 800-TIPS or through our Submit Tip banner on our website at www.crimestopperstt.com

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