United Nations launches global campaign targeting the criminal counterfeit trade

16 January 2014

Brussels, 14 January 2014

Press Release

The World Customs Organization (WCO) welcomes the new global campaign launched by the United Nations (UN), under the auspices of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to raise awareness among consumers on the dangers of counterfeit goods and their link to organized crime.

The campaign – ‘Counterfeit: Don’t buy into organized crime’ - is centred around a Public Service Announcement, entitled ‘Look Behind’, which will be shown on the NASDAQ screen in New York’s Times Square and will be aired on several international television stations, starting from 14 January.

With the aim of urging consumers to consider who and what lie behind the production of counterfeit goods, the campaign is a bid to boost understanding of the multi-faceted repercussions of this illicit trade, which according to the UNODC is worth 250 billion US dollars a year.

UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, noted that, "In comparison to other crimes such as drug trafficking, the production and distribution of counterfeit goods present a low-risk/high-profit opportunity for criminals."

Fedotov further noted that, "Counterfeiting feeds money laundering activities and encourages corruption, and there is also evidence of some involvement or overlap with drug trafficking and other serious crimes."

Counterfeiting is a crime that affects us all, from exploited labour being used to produce counterfeits, through to the harmful and potentially deadly dangers attached to these goods, and the links that these illicit goods have in potentially funding cross-border criminal and organized crime activities.

"With a long history of fighting counterfeiting and piracy at the national, regional and international level, the global Customs community is ready to support its United Nations partners in their efforts to raise awareness about this illicit trade activity," said WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya.

Mikuriya further stressed that, "The WCO is firmly committed to countering the relentless attack on consumers by criminals involved in counterfeiting, as their illicit and even dangerous goods which are flooding markets across the globe pose a huge risk to public health and safety."

Fraudulent medicines also present a serious health risk to consumers, as criminal activity in this area is big business, with the UNODC reporting that the sale of fraudulent medicines from East Asia and the Pacific to South-East Asia and Africa alone amounts to some 5 billion US dollars per year.

Criminals use similar routes and modi operandi to move counterfeit goods as they do to smuggle illicit drugs, firearms and people; in 2013, the joint UNODC/WCO Container Control Programme detected counterfeit goods in more than one-third of all seized maritime containers.

The WCO expends enormous resources on combating the counterfeit trade using a variety of means, including the organization of global enforcement operations and the introduction of IPM, a WCO tool which promotes cooperation and the sharing of information between Customs and rights holders.

Of particular relevance to the campaign is the WCO’s theme for 2014 which highlights the importance of communication and the sharing of information for better cooperation, which is highly instrumental in the fight against counterfeits in tandem with the Organization’s public and private sector partners.

Concluding, Secretary General Mikuriya took the opportunity to commend the UNODC on its latest initiative, offered his full support for the UN campaign, and urged WCO Members and Customs’ stakeholders to continue raising awareness about the perils of buying and trading counterfeit goods.

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