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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

People trading in fake medication should face death penalty, police chief says

Maj Gen Obaidli says fake meds can cost lives, so those who trade in them should lose theirs

Dubai Police want traders in fake medication to face the death penalty. Philip Cheung / The National
Dubai Police want traders in fake medication to face the death penalty. Philip Cheung / The National

The death penalty for trading in fake medication and hefty fines for buyers of counterfeit goods could be on the cards, if Dubai Police have their way.

Counterfeit traders will face tougher punishments under new rules being worked up by Dubai Police, who warn that the prevalence of fake medication is a serious threat to public health.

Maj Gen Abdul Quddus Obaidli, whose Dubai Police unit is tackling counterfeit goods, said fake medication, such as drugs used to treat heart diseases, could lead to deaths among patients. “This person who traded in those (fake) medicines must be executed, as he caused deaths,” Maj Gen Obaidli said.

“The sale of counterfeit goods is a curse on health, environment and safety standards,” he added.

Proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods often sustained criminal gangs and could be used to fund terrorism.

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“Trading of counterfeit goods is expected to cost the world’s economy a total of $4.2 trillion, risking the loss of 5.4 million jobs by 2020,” he added.

Fake medicine and knock-off designer gear, such as bags and watches, were among the most frequently counterfeited items detected by Dubai Police.

“In the United Arab Emirates, punishments dealing with counterfeit traders is considered the strictest among the Gulf Cooperation Council. Offenders trading in fake products (currently face) time in jail and a hefty fine. Some of these fines might reach up to Dh1 million,” said Maj Gen Obaidli.

At present, fake goods sellers are fined Dh15,000 for the first offence and Dh30,000 for the second offence.

Now there are plans to issue stricter punishments for dealers in counterfeit products – and authorities plan to take aim at buyers too.

“I support imposing rules to criminalise purchasers of illegal fakes,” said Maj Gen Obaidli.

Most countries target the counterfeiters rather than buyers. However, in France tourists and residents can be fined up to €300,000 (Dh1.18 million). Italy has also targeted and fined buyers during summer campaigns, and while the UK’s border agency confiscates fakes, if detected, the country decided against criminalising purchasing fake goods after a review in 2010.

Authorities are also educating citizens about the dangers of fake goods and the importance of intellectual property rights, including through new classes to be introduced for pupils across the emirate.

“The course might be taught next year as the director of the Ministry of Education issued instructions that a course of intellectual property be included in schools’ curriculum as soon as possible," said Maj Gen Obaidli.

“Trading in counterfeit products has an impact on the national economy. Therefore, we are implementing tougher punishments on counterfeiters,” he noted.

There has been ongoing cooperation between Dubai police and luxury brands.

In just the first half of 2017, Dubai Police confiscated 719,134 fake items with an estimated value of more than Dh70 million.