“We can not create an atmosphere in which criminality is allowed to flourish.”
Detective Superintendent George Kyne is from the Criminal Investigations Unit with the An Gardaí Síochána. Detective Supt. Kyne highlighted a number of operations that have been put in place to put a stop to organised criminals.
15 November 2013
The Intellectual Property Crime Unit (IPCU) has developed expertise in IP crime and counterfeiting. The group focuses on the protection of IP rights, ensure a structured and coordinated approach to tackling the problem of counterfeit products, they liaise with Gardaí across Ireland to assist in all aspects of this type of criminality and work closely with other police forces.
4-6% of world trade is counterfeit
Detective Superintendent Kyne highlighted that according to Interpol, 6-8% of world trade is counterfeit and in Africa it is as high as 40%. The most common intellectual property crime is copyright infringement (music, software and film) and trademark infringement (cigarettes, pharmaceuticals and designer brands). A range of counterfeit products have been seized in Ireland from cigarettes, GHDs, alcohol, clothing, power-tools, jewellery and motor-parts. The income and profits from these counterfeit products are of course going into the black economy and away from the companies who have created and developed legitimate goods and services.
Impact on retailers
Detective Kyne pointed out the importance of eliminating this sort of crime as legitimate retailers who have to pay overheads, rates, taxes, comply with employment legislation and health & safety standards are losing out. These traders are not paying taxes and these criminals see this as easy money, not risky, with punishments that are not very severe.
A further social consequence, Detective Superintendent Kyne highlighted, of allowing the trade in illicit tobacco to continue is that it creates an atmosphere in which criminality is allowed to flourish.
Consumers may justify to themselves that the high taxes imposed on tobacco products give them an excuse to purchase illicit tobacco. If this is allowed to be perceived as the norm, then the influence of criminals, involved in the provision of this service, continues to grow and the confidence gained from getting away with one type of criminality may encourage them to become involved in other forms of criminality. It has also been reported, anecdotally, that there have been instances of intimidation in places where the sale of illicit tobacco takes place, such as street stalls, markets and fairs. Criminals are enlisting the help of legitimate traders to hide illicit products in their stall or to warn them of the approach of Gardaí and customs. The fear of retribution ensures the involvement of innocent parties in these activities and further adds to the hostile and criminal atmosphere that may exist in particular, fairs, markets and localities.
Minors involved in illicit trade
It has also widely been reported that children are being used in the concealment and distribution of illicit tobacco products. While their activities may be perceived by many to be ‘harmless’, their involvement in the first instance ensures the infrastructure continues in place to maintain the sale of illicit tobacco products and secondly, introduces children to a world of criminality that could grow to more serious dangerous forms as the child grows to adulthood.
Organised criminal gangs and subversive organisations also continue to grow financially from trade in illicit tobacco products.
Operation Camac/Operation Decipher
Detective Superintendent Kyne talked through two operations that have been run by An Garda Síochána.
Operation Camac was set up to target the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit clothing, footwear and sportswear throughout Ireland. Two manufacturing plants were discovered. One in the midlands with a value of property seized over €700,000. A second was found in Dublin with goods seized valued at €3.7 million.
Operation Deciper saw an increase in seizures of illicit tobacco products, increased prosecutions and the cultivation of intelligence sources. This is a long term, on-going plan.