UNICRI Report: Counterfeiting: a global spread, a global threat
Decent jobs, consumers and corporate revenues are the victims of an emerging crime
A global answer to a growing phenomenon
The Report presented today by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) at CRT Foundation, which includes data from governments and international organizations, underlines the magnitude of counterfeiting: a growing phenomenon that is threatening consumers and economic systems.
According to UNICRI analysis the impact of counterfeiting has been underestimated. Mr.Sandro Calvani, UNICRI Director, said that 'Counterfeiting is an extremely dangerous criminal activity which has enjoyed a sort of impunity, thanks to the belief that it is a victimless crime. This is far from the truth. Counterfeiting entails serious consequences for the entire society. Entrepreneurs lose profits, the reward for their creative activity and for the investments made to ameliorate their products. Consumers' health and safety is threatened by counterfeit products. Because of counterfeiting jobs are lost every year and States collect fewer revenues'.
Mr. Calvani said that 'Counterfeiting is the 21st century golden mine for organized criminals which are creating networks exploiting the same routes used for the trafficking of human beings, drugs and weapons. It is an immense source of profits ready to be reinvested in other illegal activities or meaning to easily launder money deriving from other crimes'.
There are several cases that testify how the use of counterfeit products could be extremely harmful, or even deadly, for consumers. Counterfeit baby milk-powder caused the death of at least 13 babies in China in 2004. In 2005, counterfeit raki a typical Turkish alcoholic beverage caused the death of 23 people while dozens were hospitalized. The use of diethylene glycol in counterfeit cough syrup, anthistamine tablets, calamine lotion and rash ointment killed more than 100 people in Panama in 2006. Counterfeit drug containing diethylene glycol caused the death of 11 people in China in the same year.
The World Health Organization reports that between 7-10% of all pharmaceuticals products in the world are possible counterfeits, reaching a total of 30-40% in some African countries while in the former Soviet republics counterfeit medicines could constitute more than 20% of market value.
In order to improve the global response to counterfeiting a series of proposals have been elaborated by UNICRI:
Mr.Calvani has also proposed the creation of an International Permanent Observatory on Counterfeiting which could provide services and facilitate the needed acceleration in the execution of measures against counterfeiting. Good practices that are now applied in some specific areas (i.e. medical products) might represent a good model of coordinated action for other sectors as well.
If criminal organizations are now creating new synergies to maximize the potential of counterfeiting the establishment of a global alliance to counter this phenomenon is the correct answer.