Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Consumers urged not to help criminals by buying fake goods

Consumers warned that thriving market in counterfeit products helps to launder money for organised crime and terror.

DUBAI // Consumers on Monday were urged to stop buying fake goods because of the multibillion-dirham illegal trade’s links to organised crime and terror.

“This is a worldwide issue, not just specific to the UAE, but the trend we are seeing is that organised crime and even terrorist groups are using fake goods to launder money,” said Judge Jamal Al Sumaiti, director of the Dubai Judicial Institute.

“Organised crime uses money from drugs, prostitution and even human trafficking, and some of that is ploughed into making fake goods.”

Buying counterfeit goods was not a victimless crime, Mr Al Sumaiti said, and residents had a part to play in ensuring the constant battle in keeping up with criminals’ methods was fruitful.

“Criminals try to stay ahead of the law and we try to anticipate their next move. But the Government and police cannot be everywhere so consumers can play an important role, too.”

Fake car parts and medicine are available at a fraction of the cost, but people who buy them are gambling with their lives, he said. The real money, however, was in fake fashion items.

“It is annually a multibillion-dirham industry but people don’t realise the knock-on effect,” Mr Al Sumaiti said. “It can cripple companies that invest so much to develop products.”

Mohammed Al Kamali, general director of the Institute of Training and Judicial Studies, said a money-laundering law introduced at the end of last year gave wider powers to police.

“Law 9 broadens the definition of what crimes can be prosecuted for money laundering and now includes cases that come under miscellaneous or felonies,” Mr Al Kamali said.

“As an example, criminals can use the proceeds of crime to buy property and sell it a year later to launder their money. This broader interpretation will allow for prosecutions in such cases.”

UAE and US experts on Monday took part in a workshop on the issue, which concludes on Tuesday, conducted by the Dubai Judicial Institute and the US departments of justice, patent and trademark, and homeland security.

Robert Waller, US consul general in Dubai, said it was vital that countries worked together.

“People who buy these goods perhaps don’t understand the link between organised crime and counterfeit goods,” he said.

He said fake goods also helped to finance terror groups.