Wednesday, October 20, 2021

BURS cracks the whip

The Botswana Unified Revenue Services has allegedly launched a crackdown on counterfeit high end designer brands, confiscating them from border crossers who do not provide proof of the item’s originality.

The crackdown which is believed to have begun this week caught across the border traders by surprise as they watched helplessly when Tlokweng border customs officials asked them to produce receipts that the items that they are trying to bring in the country are authentic. The most hit items were clothing from high end designer labels like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Nike and other popular brands. Failure to provide receipts resulted in goods being withheld.

A trader who spoke to Sunday Standard said she is disappointed about the new developments as no communication was made regarding the issue, especially having to produce a receipt that will confirm if the goods were bought from authorised vendors.

“I make a living by buying clothes from South Africa to resell back here in Gaborone. If BURS continues with this, then at least they owe us an explanation since this greatly disrupts our business,” the lady said, choosing to remain anonymous.

BURS communications team did not immediately respond to an email request for comment despite asking this reporter over the phone to send the questions through email. However an insider at BURS confirmed that some traders ran into trouble at the commonly used Tlokweng border when they returned from South Africa with the said merchandise.

BURS could be under pressure from its South African counterpart, the South Africa Revenue Services, to curb counterfeit products. In South Africa, one of the industry’s hardest hit by fakes is clothing and footwear. Since last year SARS has been coming hard on fake clothing, confiscating counterfeit goods of renowned brands in central Johannesburg where clothes, bags, cosmetics, accessories and jewellery of protected brand names including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana, Adiddas, Nike, Puma, Soviet, Converse and Guess, were found. Some of Batswana traders frequent Johannesburg CBD for these items.

The decision by SARS to crackdown on counterfeit products followed several protests by Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union outside the SARS head office in Pretoria. The protests were intended to demonstrate the sector’s unhappiness with what the union slammed as a “crisis of illegal imports flooding” the market. In response, SARS said it was putting in place smarter technology that would allow it to quickly detect the smuggling of goods and to curb the entry of counterfeit and illicitly traded products into the country.

South Africa has since beefed up surveillance at the country’s ports of entry, particularly at airports and sea ports where most of the counterfeit products enter the country from Asia. It is understood that the people behind the lucrative counterfeit products are using countries surrounding South Africa, Botswana included, to smuggle in the products into South Africa.

The 2018 Global Brand Counterfeiting Report estimated losses due to counterfeiting of clothing, textile, footwear, cosmetics, handbags, and watches amounted to $98 billion which includes counterfeiting from offline as well as online mediums. A report commissioned by the International Trademark Association (INTA) and the International Chamber of Commerce, said the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy could reach $2.3 trillion by 2022. The global value of the counterfeit market in 2015 stood at $1.7 trillion.

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