A recent report in the Daily Graphic titled CID TAKES ACTION AGAINST COUNTERFEIT TRADE has once more brought to the fore challenges local industries face in their quest to break even and make more meaningful contributions to the revenue collection efforts of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
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 against this backdrop that many industry watchers and players have lauded the recent capacity-building training programme organised by Sollatex Ghana Limited, dealers in consumer electronic goods for officers and men of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service.
It became clear at the capacity-building training programme that that company is also affected by counterfeit trade as its products are being counterfeited and imported into Ghana for sale.
It is refreshing that ACP Dennis Abade, Deputy Director General of the CID was quoted as saying at the training programme that the counterfeiting business is a global, multi-billion crime, which organised criminal groups use 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 counterfeited 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 Mr. Terrence Darko, the President of the Ghana Employers Association (GEA) to call on government at the 2016 annual general meeting of the GEA to clear the local market of fake products. Mr. Darko drew attention to the fact that the prices of counterfeit goods were low and that local industries producing the originals of the counterfeited goods are not able to sell. He further stated that the counterfeit industry promotes stealing of intellectual properties through counterfeiting and piracy thus stifling innovation and creativity. He also drew attention to the fact that the state is losing revenue as a result because it is not able to collect taxes from collapsed industries while many people are also losing jobs.
The above prognosis must be a wake-up call on 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.
In spite of the fact that the Police as well as the Customs Division of GRA have made significant contributions in the fight against counterfeit and illicit trade in Ghana over the years, a lot more needs to be done if the country is to win the war against illicit trade.
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 over the country. 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 plank 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.
In that sphere of large scale importation of smuggled and counterfeit products, the Ghana Immigration Service(GIS) and the Customs Division of GRA have been collaborating to impound uncustomed products as well as counterfeit products for destruction.
Illicit products, apart from its negative effects on revenue mobilisation efforts of government; pose a grave danger to the public health budget as these goods are not up to the standards required by the Foods and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA). Persons who consume illicit goods are therefore putting their lives in grave danger.
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 its game in the quest to stop illegal trade. We need a Police whose men and women will able 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 the communities, market places and all such places where the illicit trade is flourishing to conduct swoops of such places for counterfeit and smuggled products.
Often, even when arrests have been made of persons engaged in illicit trade, the prosecution of such persons 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 will 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 works closely with the Attorney General’s Department in formulation of charges to be preferred against persons arrested for illegal trading. Many persons arrested for dealings in illegal trading have been acquitted and discharged as a result of blunders by Police prosecutors in laying appropriate charges or evidence adduced at such trials.
Manufacturers, importers and users of goods that suffer the brunt of illicit trade must also come to the aid of the Police in its 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 an effective partner of the fight against counterfeit and illicit trade.
Source: New Crusading guide