That Louis Vuitton you just bought could be fake and by buying it you may have helped a criminal network.

Most of us will be very distraught if we discover that some of our purchases contribute to criminal activity. Well, from research done on the domestic market in Trinidad, many counterfeited global brands are on sale around the country. Brands such as Polo, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Adidas, Louis Vuitton, Coach, Burberry and many others can be found in establishments from high end malls to suitcase traders. Unknowingly, some of our entrepreneurs are actively supporting criminal networks. This problem exists across the region and around the world. During this Christmas season Crime Stoppers is asking you to look carefully at what and where you buy since you can unintentionally be supporting crime. You should also be aware that many of these criminal groups operate by offering their goods online on some of the popular shopping sites.

Counterfeiting is one aspect of illicit trade. This involves a range of activities that include the fashion industry, narcotics, medicines, food and consumer products, environmental crimes, human trafficking and several other activities.
So what can we do as individuals? First, be careful about buying items that you believe may not be genuine. Continuing to do this only allows you to be a part of the crime problem and not the solution. Also, be careful about where you buy. Do you really believe a supplier of a genuine pristine brand will be on sale from that location? What about the price? Will a genuine brand be sold at that price, even if it’s on sale? Of note is that legitimate brand owners have found that in many instances in Trinidad the price of the fake is quite close to the genuine brand making the problem a bit more difficult.

Often times the discussion on the counterfeit items entering our shores focuses on the significant damage that is done to legitimate brands and the deleterious effects on individuals’ health when the counterfeited product is one like pharmaceuticals. Also, when genuine items become illicit by evading legitimate entry points, the discussion shifts to government revenue that is forgone. However, another important side to this story today is that transnational crime is being funded even more through the use of illicit brands. While this is not a new phenomenon and has occurred for decades, law enforcement around the world has found that international criminal networks are funding their activities through this avenue where penalties are significantly less. So what if you knew that the dollar you spend on that counterfeit shoe or handbag may be ultimately funding international crimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking and money-laundering? What will you do?

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) noted that around the world several operations have been uncovered where proceeds from drug trafficking were channeled into counterfeiting, and where profits from the sale of counterfeit goods were used to advance other illicit operations of criminals. In 2016 Crime Stoppers International signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UNODC at the conference in Trinidad and Tobago. This agreement is aimed at reducing transnational crimes such as illicit trade and improving citizens’ security.

Crime Stoppers is therefore encouraging you the consumer to research your product to ensure you purchase genuine goods and so not be a part of funding international criminal empires. If you are concerned that an item being purchased may be counterfeit, you may 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 should also check the official websites of brand owners to find credible information on identifying their genuine products.

Remember to report any kind of suspicious activity you can also call us toll free at 800-8477 (TIPS)
Garland Samuel
Executive Manager
Crime Stoppers Trinidad and Tobago