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A growing number of Botswana traders who are selling counterfeit goods are being arrested in a global coordinated Interpol-backed operation which has so far seized fake goods worth more than P250 million.
Botswana which has become a dumping ground of counterfeit goods has been included in Interpol coordinated operations in various locations throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America.
Investigators have arrested hundreds of suspects after targeting illicit factories thought to be behind the large-scale production of fake products.
In Botswana’s latest arrest, police have nabbed a suspect accused of smuggling 2,500 counterfeit branded shoes, jackets, and handbags into the country. This followed another operation earlier this month in which a South African law firm representing Nike and Under Armour, American multinationals that manufactures footwear, apparel and, accessories was helped by the Botswana Police and the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) to confiscate counterfeit goods imported by Batswana traders from China.
The law firm, Adams and Adams law firm which represents Nike and Under Armour confiscated bails of clothing garments and footwear from Batswana traders who were arriving at Sir Seretse Khama airport from China.
Batswana traders were made to sign a letter from Adams and Adams granting the South African police service, South African Revenue Service and the Department of Trade and Industry to enter into their premises in Botswana and seize the garments.
Batswana entrepreneurs peddling counterfeit goods were also made to sign letters declaring that they will never import, distribute market, sell or be in possession or control of counterfeit goods bearing the trademarks or confusingly similar trademarks. The traders further signed agreements binding them to compensate the manufactures of the original goods, the law firm, SAPS, SARS and DTI the burden for delivering –up and destruction of the unauthorised goods bearing the trade marks.
The global operation, which involved officials from a range of law enforcement agencies, saw officers seize a total of 7.2 million bogus items that weighed more than 120 tonnes, along with 90,000 litres of liquids.
These included illicit pharmaceuticals, fake tobacco products, alcohol, food, vehicle parts, clothing, anti-malarial pills, pregnancy tests and pesticides.
Some 645 suspects have been identified or arrested so far as following the coordinated actions, which involved raids at shops, markets, chemists, retail outlets, warehouses and border control points.
Countries which took part in the operations, which were coordinated by Interpol’s Illicit Goods and Global Heath unit, included Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Colombia, Côte-d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ecuador, Ghana, Jordan, Laos, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
In a statement, Interpol Executive Director of Police Services Tim Morris commented: “By attacking the distribution networks, and by disrupting production at the source, participating countries have contributed towards globally protecting people from potentially unsafe goods, and made them safer by dismantling illegal networks which are often connected to other forms of serious crime.
“The sheer volume of seizures and follow-up investigations generated by these simultaneous global operations are testimony to the fundamental role of Interpol in shaping a coordinated response in regional and international operations: it is all about collaboration.”