Local industries, particularly those in the manufacturing and import sectors, have been reeling under an unjustifiable influx of counterfeit and illicit trade that is growing at a surprising phenomenal rate and thereby poses a clear and present danger to the economy.
It is refreshing that Deputy Director General of the CID, ACP Dennis Abade, was quoted as saying at the training programme that the counterfeiting business was a global multi-billion crime which organised criminal groups used to amass wealth.
In Ghana today, manufacturers and importers of textiles, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and other fast- moving consumer goods (FMCGs) are at the mercy of the illicit trade taking the form of either counterfeit goods, contraband or smuggled goods or even tax-evaded goods.
The threat of counterfeit goods and illicit trade to the survival of local industries compelled, the President of the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), Mr Terrence Darko to call on the government at the 2016 annual general meeting of the GEA to clear the local market of fake products.
He also drew attention to the fact that the state was losing revenue as a result because it was not able to collect taxes from collapsed industries, while many people were also losing jobs.
The above prognosis must be a wake-up call for the government, the security agencies, industries, consumers and the citizenry to join hands in a sustained manner to rid our markets of counterfeit and illicit goods.
The need for understanding concepts in the illegal trade
It has been argued by chieftains of industry and industry watchers that in spite of the strides made by stakeholders to combat illicit trade, counterfeit trading, illicit manufacturing among others, there is a lack of understanding; which often inures to the benefit of purveyors of the underground trade.
It is thus imperative that all stakeholders have a firm grasp of key terms and usages in the illegal trade to facilitate swift actions against practitioners of illegal trade.
Article 1 of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FTC) for example defines illicit trade “… as any practice or conduct prohibited by law and which relates to production, shipment, receipt, possession, distribution, sale or purchase, including any practice or conduct intended to facilitate such activity.”
Thus, using the Ghanaian experience as an example, any person who produces, ships, receives, possesses, distributes, sells and/or purchases and further to that acts in any manner intended to facilitate the trade in uncustomed tobacco, textiles, alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage is part of the chain of illicit trade that deprives Ghana of tax revenue.
Over a period, officials of the Customs Division of GRA have organised seizures of uncustomed tobacco, textiles, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages among others and burnt them at waste disposal sites. Commendable as this is, the continuous flourishing of illicit trade requires a relentless and co-ordinated effort by all concerned if Ghana is to win the war.
Another part of the illicit trade business is smuggling which can be defined as trading products illegally across borders. Genuine products and illegal products are both smuggled. The illegal products are as a result of illegal manufacturing as they do not conform to standards of the various regulatory agencies even in the countries where the illegal manufacturing takes place.
What the police can do
The remaining challenge is the area of small-scale purveyors of the illicit trade. The many traders who sell at our market places, corner shops and all manner of undefined trade channels continue to stock smuggled, counterfeit and uncustomed tobacco, textiles, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for sale. That is why the police needs to up their game in the quest to stop illegal trade.
We need the police to detect counterfeit textiles, tobacco products, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in our markets and other trade channels such as corner shops, table tops, stores at home, bars, eateries etc.; seize such goods for destruction and ensure the prosecution of traders who deal in such goods.
The police can rely on informants in communities, market places and all such places where the illicit trade is flourishing to conduct swoops.
Often, even when persons who engage in illicit trade are arrested, the prosecution does not conclude successfully.
It is instructive that at the training programme under reference, the Director of Operations of the CID, Chief Superintendent Felix Mawusi, spoke about the commitment of the police to ensure that persons engaged in the illegal trade would be prosecuted rigorously in the light of the Trade Mark Act, Act 876 of 2014.
In spite of the commitment exhibited by the police in the fight against illegal trade, it is important that the police work closely with the Attorney General’s Department to formulate charges to be preferred against persons arrested for illegal trading.
Manufacturers, importers and users of goods who suffer the brunt of illicit trade must also come to the aid of the police in their quest to stop that trade. Occasional knowledge-sharing workshops for industry players and the police must be held as persons involved in illicit trade are always evolving new methods of outwitting the security agencies.
The police must be effective partners in the fight against counterfeit and illicit trade.
Source: Daily Graphic