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General News of Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Source: GNA

CID to handle counterfeit, piracy as drug offences

Accra, July 23, GNA - The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service has extended a collaborative hand to the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) to handle counterfeiting and piracy crimes as drug trafficking. To this effect, an outfit would soon be created at the CID office to receive and take action on reports of such nature and ensure speedy prosecution. Commissioner of Police Frank Adu-Poku, Head of the CID, said this at a press conference in Accra on Wednesday to end a two-day National Dialogue on Counterfeit Products, which had the theme "Protecting the Consumer against Counterfeits through Inter-agency and Sub-Regional Collaboration". Mr Adu-Poku noted that counterfeiting had become a global phenomenon and should not the left alone at the doorsteps of the FDB to tackle.

"It needs all stakeholders to actively support, cooperate and collaborate with FDB to fight this canker," he said. Mr Emmanuel Kyeremanteng Agyarko, Chief Executive Officer of FDB, said reports from the Singapore Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research estimated that the global counterfeit of goods at US$322 billion. The European Union Anti-Counterfeiting project in Ghana showed the cost of counterfeiting to Ghana was almost US$200 million, not counting the human cost. He noted that the art of copying, packaging and labelling of counterfeited products had become so sophisticated that it had become difficult to differentiate fake from genuine product.

"Sometimes if you look at it critically, it is even difficult to tell the genuine ones."

He explained that apart from the products being sold at shady street corners, counterfeit and pirated goods had found their way into the regular distribution systems and into the local shops shelves right next to the genuine ones.

"They slip through the system, bypassing standards and safety testing procedure and present serious health and safety hazards." Mr Agyarko said the National Dialogue identified lack of collaboration between the regulatory agencies, private sector, consumers, regulatory authorities and ECOWAS countries as cause of the flooding of the market with counterfeit goods. The rest are lack of comprehensive and punitive legal and regulatory environment; lack of consumer awareness; lack of technology and lack of enforcement of existing laws as well as prosecution of counterfeit cases.

The Dialogue indicated that the consequences of not tackling the issue of counterfeits could reduce investment, making a country a dumping ground. Others are unemployment, loss of revenue and undermining national security and judicial systems. Participants recommended among other things that, a taskforce be formed and with powers from the executive to deal with issues on legislation, regulation, public education and other inter-agency coordination.

They said relevant sections of the existing laws and acts on counterfeiting and piracy should be consolidated into an anti-counterfeiting/piracy legal and regulatory framework with graded punitive measures to recognize different levels of offence. There should also be an increase of surveillance in the market place whilst industry, government and regulators should identify and promote the adoption of technologies to be identified. FDB has therefore launched a website (www.bcacit.com) to educate and receive reports from the public on counterfeits and piracy.

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