The UN on Tuesday launched a new campaign to raise awareness about the links between organised crime and the trade in counterfeit goods, which amounts to US$250 billion a year.
PANA reports that the campaign, tagged: “Counterfeit: Don’t buy into organised crime”, informs consumers that buying counterfeit goods could be funding organised criminal groups, putting consumer health and safety at risk and contributing to other ethical and environmental concerns.
Launched by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the campaign centres around a new public service announcement which will be featured on the NASDAQ screen in New York’s Times Square on Tuesday and aired on several global television stations from January.
The UN said that through the campaign, consumers are urged to look beyond counterfeit goods and to understand the serious repercussions of this illicit trade, which provides criminals with a significant source of income and facilitates the laundering of other illicit proceeds.
A statement on the campaign stated: “As a crime which touches virtually everyone in one way or another, counterfeit goods pose a serious risk to consumer health and safety.”
“With no legal regulation and very little recourse, consumers are exposed to risk from unsafe and ineffective products since faulty counterfeit goods can lead to injury and, in some cases, death,” it noted.
According to UNODC: “Tyres, brake pads and airbags, aeroplane parts, electrical consumer goods, baby formula and children’s toys are just some of the many different items which have been counterfeited”.
It also said that fraudulent medicines also present a serious health risk to consumers, noting that criminal activity in this area is big business.
“The sale of fraudulent medicines from East Asia and the Pacific to South-East Asia and Africa alone amounts to some US$5 billion per year.”
“At the very least, fraudulent medicines have been found to contain no active ingredients, while at their worst they can contain unknown and potentially harmful chemicals,” it warned.
The UN agency disclosed that the list of fraudulent medicines is extensive, and could range from ordinary pain killers and antihistamines, to ‘lifestyle’ medicines, such as those taken for weight loss and sexual dysfunction, to life-saving medicines including those for the treatment
of cancer and heart disease.
UNODC Executive Director, Mr. Yury Fedotov, said: “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.”
“Counterfeiting feeds money laundering activities and encourages corruption. There is also evidence of some involvement or overlap with drug trafficking and other serious crimes,” he added.
UNODC also noted that counterfeiting involves a range of ethical issues that are often overlooked, including labour exploitation and migrant smuggling, as well as poses environmental challenges due to the lack of any regulations.