Counterfeit crackdown - Cops vow to clamp down on masterminds behind intellectual property crimes
Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
With more than $1.6 billion in counterfeit goods confiscated locally in the past 12 months, the police have raised concerns that counterfeiting, or intellectual property crimes, are quickly emerging as a major national challenge.
Coupled with the health risks some of these fake products pose to consumers and the economic losses to Jamaican businesses and brands, Deputy Superintendent Carl Berry, who heads the Intellectual Property Unit within the Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID), says criminal gangs are using proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods to finance their activities.
Berry, who was speaking yesterday during the launch of the police's newest anti-counterfeiting initiative, dubbed 'Operation Swirl', lamented that the problem was further compounded by the 'eat-a-food' mentality pervasive among Jamaicans.
SEEN AS SOFT CRIMES
"IP (intellectual property) crimes are seen as soft crimes … . Not many persons are seeing IP crimes as a major event. Loads of persons see it as just 'eating a food'," Berry said.
"But we are saying there is a link between intellectual property crimes and transnational organised crimes, and it something we must tackle immediately," he said.
Following the launch of Operation Swirl in downtown Kingston, the police destroyed hundreds of compact discs and DVDs, as well as scores of counterfeit Jamaican products such as overproof rum, cigarettes, and slippers, which investigators say are among the most popular items for those involved in this illegal activity.
Berry also revealed that since April last year, his unit, with assistance from the Kingston Central, St Andrew Central, and Motorised Patrol divisions, has seized more than 13.1 million CDs/DVDs (each sold for $100) and arrested more than 80 persons for breaches of intellectual property rights.
The OCID head said the Jamaica Constabulary Force was making intellectual property crime a top priority and warned that through Operation Swirl, the police would be going after the masterminds behind the numerous counterfeit rings operating across Jamaica.
"The main focus is to ensure that intellectual property thieves know that we are after them. If intellectual property criminals are allowed to operate freely in Jamaica, the country will lose," Berry said.
CAPTION - From left: Jeremy Slezak, economic/commerce officer at the United States
Embassy; Carol Simpson, chief executive officer of the Jamaica
Intellectual Property Office; and Deputy Superintendent Carl Berry, head
of the Intellectual Property Unit of the Organised Crime Investigation
Division (OCID), look over some of the counterfeit items seized by
police, at a press conference held at OCID's offices in Kingston