More than $500 million worth of fake brands seized seven months into 2023
Counterfeit bags were also seized in Wednesday's raid at a store in downtown Kingston.

ROUGHLY $200 million worth of counterfeit goods was on Wednesday seized from a store in the West Parade section of downtown Kingston when cops swooped in on the establishment following a formal complaint from a brand owner that fake items mimicking their products were being sold there.

Victor Barrett, assistant superintendent of police, who heads the Intellectual Property Rights Unit within the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime branch, confirmed the seizure and said that one foreigner had been taken into custody and will be charged with breaches of the Trademark Act.

"This is part of our continued efforts to rid the streets of counterfeit goods. On close inspection of the store, we discovered a large quantity of [fake] Crocs, Nike, Puma and Tommy Hilfiger in all shapes and sizes. There is a warehouse inside the store that has a massive amount of goods and they are selling them without the authorisation of the brands," Barrett told journalists shortly after the raid on the store.

This latest seizure brings the value of fake brands removed from the streets since the start of 2023 to more than $500 million.

Cops at a store after a big seizure of counterfeit goods in downtown Kingston on Wednesday. (Photos: Llewellyn Wynter)

They were confiscated during six major raids in different hot spots, including downtown and Half-Way-Tree.

Barrett explained that for raids to be initiated, a compliant must be triggered from brand owners. He encouraged Jamaicans to be more vigilant when purchasing certain goods and to be concerned that their money could go towards funding criminal enterprises and activities.

"What normally happens is that we would receive certain information from the owners of the brands and do our investigative inquiries. The big brands express concerns every day, but as usual, we have to wait until they give us a statement in relation to any infringed goods. Based on the current letter of the law, we have to wait until we get a complaint from one of the owners of the brand to say that their brand has been infringed at a store and give the location. We would then do what we have to do," he said.

"I would tell the public to be careful where they buy goods. The prices also might be of concern to you. We understand the issue of disposable income and our citizens want deals, but if the price is too good, think about it. If you check an [Nike] Air Force 1 on the Internet, it is selling for, like, US$150 which equates to about $22,000. If someone is selling an Air Force for $7,500, then something is wrong; I say to customers to be cautious," added Barrett.

Some of the counterfeit goods seized on Wednesday in downtown Kingston.

In the meantime, Barrett pointed out that many Jamaicans are unaware that they could be at risk of serious illness by wearing counterfeit products and recommended that the fines and prison terms be increased for people engaged in the sale of counterfeit products.

"We have a duty under the law to protect our citizens and, more important, there are public health concerns. [To] our countrymen who buy these products - we don't know what chemicals they use to make these shoes. The law speaks to fines of up to $1 million or 12 months imprisonment. I think that, based on the magnitude of the trade, they can increase the penalty. Somewhere in the world some little boy or girl might have been trafficked to produce these items. You don't know the component of the dye. You could put it on and sweat, and it goes in your bloodstream and then you have some ailment," Barrett said.

Stating that he does not want Jamaica to become a dumping ground for counterfeit goods because of its link with human trafficking, money laundering, and organised crime, Barrett encouraged retailers to legitimise their operations by becoming official distributors of famous brands.

"Reach out to the brands and legitimise your operations; become a [certified] distributor," he said.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter

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