An intensive raid mounted countrywide this week confiscated tonnes of counterfeit clothing garments after Botswana was accused of supporting the sale of brands linked to organized crime.
The seizure of counterfeit items, depicting brands such as Polo Nike, Levies, Converse and other brands, comes at a time when counterfeit big brands taint the image of the country as an unfavourable destination to invest due to the presence of counterfeits.
The raid closed stalls, shops, boutiques, malls and warehouses in Gaborone when the Criminal Investigation Department, with the assistance of South African big brands representatives, swept and seized clothing items.
CID Assistant Commissioner, Kesetsenao Tsheneetsile, hailed the raid that was targeted to seize the counterfeit brands as the country’s image was tainted by their sheer presence in Botswana.
The raid came after the Minister of Trade had said that there was nothing that the country could do due to the absence of laws that prohibit the sale of counterfeits products.
Kwenaetsile contended that the country was pressurized to undertake the raid after big brand manufacturers accused Botswana of violating and not abiding with the Multilateral International Copyright Treaties that the country is a signatory to.
He said that the raid was meant to show the world that they were against the selling of these goods.
He said that Botswana was accused of not respecting the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which is an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organization.
He asserted that the raid was also important as the country continues to lose import duties and tax from fraudulent people selling counterfeit brands.
The Assistant Commissioner also indicated that most of the clothing items came from as far as Thailand, Taiwan and China.
“The country was losing a lot of money as it is evident that some of the big brands were now reluctant to invest in the country. As signatory to treaties, we should not be seen playing a role that is against the treaties,” he said.
Kwenaitsile explained that they confiscated tonnes of counterfeits brands at a Chinese mall, known as Oriental Plaza, when the raid kick-started last week.
He stated that those who were found in possession were also taken to task to pay a certain fee and sign a statement that they will not sell the brands.
Kwenaitsile noted that the raid was made possible by representatives of the brands from South Africa who have knowledge about their goods.
He was, however, worried that the scrupulous traders were also cheating Batswana of their hard earned money by selling these counterfeits at the same prices as genuine brands.
“Batswana bought these brands thinking that they were genuine,” he added.
The Legal Advisor of one of the South African companies, LA Group LTD, Rae James, also praised Botswana for the effort to deal with counterfeiters. She said that Botswana was moving in the right direction by seizing such products.
“The importers are continually adapting to the anti-counterfeiting measures and we and the authorities have to be pro-active, vigilant and committed to fighting counterfeit products, no matter which product or brand. And consumers have to be aware that buying counterfeit products may be cheap but the cost in terms of lost revenue and supporting organized crime is high,” she added.