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Kenya sees local criminal networks driving counterfeit crime

Posted by Administrator on November 10, 2011

NAIROBI, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) — Counterfeiting in Kenya is master- minded by local criminal networks through filling of used food and non-food containers with substandard versions of genuine products, a senior official of the state agency fighting the vice said.

Counterfeiting is estimated to cost Kenya at least 1 million U. S. dollars in lost sales and government revenues and led to the setting up of the Anti Counterfeit Agency last year, with mandate to enforce the law and educate the public on the vice.

“The experience we have had since we started operations in June last year is that it is the local criminals that are perpetuating counterfeiting crime rather than the perception that the main culprits are foreigners,” Stan Manthi, a senior anti-counterfeit inspector, told Xinhua in an interview in Nairobi on Thursday.

Since it started operations in the middle of last year, the agency has instituted 16 cases in the Kenyan courts against counterfeit offenders with electrical and electronic counterfeiting being the most rampant crime. “You see people carrying gunny bags and walking from one dumping container to the other. They collect plastic containers on behalf of the some of the people driving this crime. The containers are refilled with similar but substandard content,” he said.

The other plan used by counterfeit criminals is to enter into contract manufacturing with foreign companies for products that are most popular in the local market.

“What these criminals do is to buy a genuine product locally, say like a pen, and then contract manufactures in foreign countries with specifications that the product is made in a substandard manner so that it costs much less. That is why at the Port of Mombasa, we have made several arrests of counterfeit goods with the ‘Made in Kenya’ and the national standards body labels,” he added.

The most abused products under this category are cigarettes. Kenya’s two main cigarette manufacturing companies, the BAT East Africa and Mastermind Tobacco have previously reported high levels of counterfeiting.

The official said so far, most of cases in court on counterfeit involve selling of counterfeited mobile telephone handsets of some of the most popular brands locally.

“Our next phase of action that we plan to launch in February 2012 is massive public education. We want Kenyans to know that buying a counterfeit product does not only endanger their lives and give them less value for what they spend but also retards the pace of development of this country,” said Manthi.

The other target of counterfeiters in Kenya is medicines. A recent survey by the Quality Control Laboratories and the state body Pharmacy and Poisons Board revealed that 30 percent of medicines in Kenya are counterfeit. It estimated the cost on the pharmaceutical industry as 130 million dollars every year.

The business community, however, cites soft penalties for counterfeit offenders as a motivator to crime.

For example, the current law imposes a five-year jail term for first time offenders and there have been calls to review the term to 10 years.

The proposed consumer protection law in Kenya has also called for stiffer penalties from traders who knowingly sell counterfeit products.

Source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/indepth/2011-11/10/c_131239736.htm

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