Counterfeit products worth Rwf33m seized in police swoop

Counterfeit, substandard and illicit products worth over Rwf33 million have been seized from the market in a police-led operation conducted last week.

Counterfeit, substandard and illicit products worth over Rwf33 million have been seized from the market in a police-led operation conducted last week.

The results of the operation were made public, yesterday, at the Rwanda National Police (RNP) General Headquarters in Kacyiru.

The two-day operation, codenamed ‘Fagia OPSON III’, was conducted between December 20 and 21, by RNP and other entities, including ministries of Trade and industry, Health, and Agriculture.

Others include Rwanda Standards Board (RBS), Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), Rwanda Development Board (RDB), and Private Sector Federation (PSF) as well as brand owners.

The regional operation, under the auspices of the International Police (Interpol) was conducted and its outcome was announced concurrently in all the thirteen Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO) member countries.

The assorted substandard, counterfeit and illicit goods seized in the countrywide operation include foodstuff, medical drugs, lotions, perfumes and powdered milk.

Others include veterinary drugs, fertiliser and animal feed, alcoholic drinks including wines and spirits as well as locally made alcoholic beverages, either illicit or parked contrary to standards.

Commissioner of Police Emmanuel Butera, the Commissioner for Operation and Public Order in RNP, while announcing the outcome of the operation, warned the business community against “selling and making unauthorised products.”

“This is like poisoning Rwandans, which can’t be allowed; that’s why different institutions and brand owners come together to put their ideas and skills together to detect these dangerous products so as to protect consumers from harm,” CP Butera said.

“Dealing in substandard, fake or illicit products is criminal, and poses a security concern due to health implications such brings along, affects development and cause losses to companies whose products have been counterfeited but also a loss to dealers whose products are seized and destroyed,” he added.

He said that the operations will continue and called upon the general public and the business community in particular to protect their businesses by reporting people selling unauthorised goods.

Fredric Muhoza, from the pharmaceutical section in the Ministry of Health, said all lotions with hydroquinone content were banned in Rwanda, on health grounds.

Hydroquinone is a bleaching agent that lightens the skin, and Muhoza said that it has been scientifically proven that it causes diseases like skin cancer.

Fagia OPSON III follows two other similar operations conducted in 2015 and 2016, which resulted in seizure of products worth Rwf14 million and Rwf140 million, respectively.

Desire Musangwa, the head of Industry Inspection at RSB, said that only distilleries and firms dealing in milk products with the S-Mark are required to operate.

“Since October, we suspended all distilleries without the S-Mark (Standard Mark) and there are only 12 licensed distilleries; all others were suspended due to standards which have to be met first,” Musangwa said.

As of end of November, nearly 80 distilleries that were either operating illegally or contrary to the standards were closed.