Counterfeiting as an Organized Crime

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has launched a global campaign to raise awareness among consumers against the increasing the spread of illicit goods.

UNODC has currently gathered $250 billion worth of prohibited and scammed products. $150 billion of which comes from fraud medicines dispensed in global black market and even on legitimate pharmacies. UNODC labeled this illegal practice as organized crime because of the planned process and the involvement of large corporations. There are also countries where politicians and other government officials are connected and sometimes pointed out as the people behind the illegal scheme.

The campaign — Counterfeit: Don’t buy into organized crime — informs consumers that buying counterfeits aid fraudsters to continue their business, thus putting everybody’s health at risk. The campaign has gone out strong, yet, there seems to be no change in the operations. After a couple of raids were conducted in Bangkok, Thailand, Jakarta, Indonesia and Singapore on January, another set of news on a possible shipment of crates bearing counterfeit Cialis and Viagra was found and lost near the Yuhua, Singapore. With the large shipments involving sea transportation, it just gets to show that these fraudsters are operating in big quantity with big back-ups to cover their tracks.

According to INTERPOL’s report, organized criminal networks are attracted by the huge profits to be made through pharmaceutical crime. They operate across national borders in activities that include the import, export, manufacture and distribution of counterfeit and illicit medicines. Coordinated and cross-sector action on an international level is therefore vital in order to identify, investigate and prosecute the criminals behind these crimes.

The Peterson Group, one of the leading anti-counterfeiting non-profit organizations in the Asia-Pacific region, voiced out one of the greatest fears of authorities regarding organized crime involving counterfeit medicines: the involvement of other crimes into this scheme. Once counterfeiting is being operated, countless other crimes follow.

Europol has seconded this motion.

In one of their reviews, they left a warning to catch counterfeiters immediately as it can be an attractive venue for other diversified crimes. They wrote, “Evidence suggests that criminal networks use similar routes and modus operandi to move counterfeit goods as they do to smuggle drugs, firearms and people”. Corruption and bribery are inherently linked to the illicit trafficking of counterfeit goods, particularly when these are shipped internationally. Coercion and racketeering are similarly associated with organized crime’s role in counterfeiting. Shopkeepers for instance have been forced to sell counterfeit products in amongst their legitimate stock.