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Speaking notes for Police Minister General Bheki Cele at the 13th International Law Enforcement Intellectual Property Crime Annual Conference hosted in Cape Town
2019/10/22

Program Director

Acting National Commissioner, Lieutenant General Bonang Mgwenya

The National Head of DPCI; Lt General Godfrey Lebeya

Divisional Commissioner of Crime Intelligence; Lt General Peter Jacobs

Chairperson of LOC of the Conference Major General Alfred Khana

INTERPOL Director of Organised and Emerging Crime; Mr Paul Stanfield

President of the Underwriters Laboratories Mr Terrence Brady

Assistant Commander General, Dubai Police Major General Abdul Quoudus

All dignitaries present.

 

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me extend my warmest welcome to you all to the Mother City in South Africa. It is such a privilege for us as the South African Police Service and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, popularly known as the HAWKS play a part in this very important event. A first on African soil.

It is at this conference that represents our ongoing commitment from all over the world to intensify the fight against counterfeit goods.

Protection of intellectual property rights is critical to every sector of the economy. The challenge is that intellectual property crimes are treated differently from traditional crimes of theft.

But the concept is the same, STEALING IS STEALING!

Everybody understands that it is wrong to walk into a store and take something without paying. At the same time, the act of downloading a movie from a file-sharing site, or buying a cheap knock-off of a name brand item, may seem harmless. But the reality is that the accumulated economic loss from those illegal transactions can destroy small, medium and large legitimate businesses.

It is clear we have a shared and unwavering commitment to addressing the challenge of the influx of counterfeit goods in the market place.

When there is such a commitment to strengthen Intellectual property enforcement, it reassures innovators and investors that when they devote time and money to developing new concepts and products, they will reap the financial rewards.

If governments fail to protect intellectual property rights, there are short and long-term consequences, these include;

·      Intellectual property owners will lose revenue and brand equity.

·      Consumers will be exposed to unsafe or dangerous products.

·      Governments will lose out on the duties and taxes payable to them.

Ladies and Gentlemen the long-term impact to economies across the world and especially ours are devastating. This type of crime will result in decreased investments which will mean the economy won’t grow and new jobs won’t be created.

It is a crime that literally takes food off the table for millions of households.

I think we can all agree that we don’t want this for ourselves or for the future generations. This is why we must act NOW!

LOCAL INTERVENTION ON FAKE GOODS

In South Africa we have declared a war against counterfeit goods.

In August, local police and custom officials conducted raids in Johannesburg; the country’s economic hub. The raids saw police officers pounce on buildings believed to be storing and selling illegal items.

As the Police Minister, I personally went to this operation to see for myself the extent of the crime. On that day, over 200 million rand worth of counterfeit items were taken off the streets.

The raid also found unlicensed firearms in these high-rise buildings. This clearly points to dangerous criminal elements that are also at work. Over five hundred foreign nationals were arrested in the same sting, for their role in the illicit trade and others for being in the country illegally.

We also arrested some of our own, seven police officers are currently before the courts for trying to defeat the ends of justice by allegedly attempting to resell the confiscated goods to illegal traders.

 

 

Program Director, our fight against this crime doesn’t end there, just last week, police again confiscated 14 million rand worth of counterfeit condoms, Viagra pills and skin lightening creams. Another operation on the same day saw law enforcement clamp down on counterfeit sanitary towels and running shoes worth 12 million rand. A further 9 million rand worth of counterfeit clothing items was also seized in a separate operation.

Ladies and Gentlemen the amounts are alarming, just these operations in Johannesburg alone resulted in 235 million rand that is almost 16 million US dollars of fake goods taken off the streets in the past two months.

In an effort for us to dismantle these syndicates and suffocate the network, we have shifted our focus from targeting illegal traders to focusing on manufacturing and distribution points. This is yielding results as the operations have led to the shutting down of several manufacturers and points of supply especially in the Johannesburg CBD.

It is a fact that criminals are always looking for vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system and within the consumer environment. When law enforcement disrupts an illegal activity, criminal networks come up with new tactics.

We MUST stay a step ahead of criminals!

COUNTERFEIT PRODUCTS SALES

Esteemed guests, these illicit acts undermine the rule of law.

We are aware that some consumers knowingly buy counterfeit products to own a brand-name bag or shoe without paying the price for the real thing. However, many consumers also fall victim to unscrupulous sellers who market or promote counterfeit products without disclosing that they are not authentic. Counterfeit products often look identical to legitimate ones and consumers may unfortunately only learn they have been cheated when it is too late.

 

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

If we are to dismantle these criminal networks, we MUST work together and commit ourselves as international, regional and local partners. We must continue to explore different approaches to improve our effectiveness in combatting this global criminal pandemic. We need to be creative in our approach and use all our available resources and tools too.

I encourage the private sector to pursue civil litigation and for the National Prosecuting Authority to pursue criminal proceedings against perpetrators of intellectual property crimes. It is crucial that we strengthen our ability to pursue criminal charges against perpetrators and seize their assets or freeze their funds accumulated from these illicit activities.

Let us also rope in the public to assist us in detecting and reporting this crime, members of the public must be alerted to the harms caused by intellectual property violations.

As I conclude Programme Director, we all know there is no easy way out of this, nor is there one size fits all type solution.

It is on this score that in our commitment to work together, we speak in one voice against this crime that threatens the livelihood of millions of households and the viability of economies across the globe.

Let us continue to promote and protect the rule of law and protect intellectual property rights.

I hope you enjoy the remainder of the conference and I look forward to continued commitment in the years ahead.

 

I thank you.

 

 

-Ends-