The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) is once again commending Government for its stance on illicit trade, and says with continued policing and stronger enforcement of the requisite laws, more cases will reach the prosecution stage.
An official statement from the TTMA quotes the business lobby’s president, Tricia Coosal, as describing illicit trade as “a major obstacle in the Caribbean, especially in Trinidad and Tobago”.
The TTMA President says she is happy Government has made the eradication of illicit trade a top priority.
“This is the first time in the history of T&T that two owners of large retail outlets have been held accountable and will face the court for their role in selling and trading illicit goods. We are proud to be part of the joint operational Anti-Illicit Trade Task Force, which comprises members of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Crime Stoppers Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards, Intellectual Property Office, Customs and Excise Division and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. We commend, in particular, the Police, Customs and Excise Division and the Ministry of Trade and Industry for their roles,” Coosal explained.
She said the arrests signify Government’s commitment to reducing the prevalence of illicit trade and this will ultimately help end the smuggling and illegal sale of makeup and clothes, petroleum and its by-products, tobacco, alcohol, wildlife, music, pharmaceuticals, intellectual property and other tangible and intangible consumer goods.
Deputy Police Commissioner Mc Donald Jacob confirmed the Police Service will continue to act where necessary to bring these cases to prosecution.
“We are determined to ensure that persons who continuously skirt the law by allowing illicitly traded goods and products to enter this country will be penalised. We cannot standby and allow fake and counterfeit goods and products to saturate our market,” DCP Jacob assured.
Ms. Coosal revealed that several industries were adversely affected by unscrupulous importers and exporters, and law enforcement intervention was not only necessary but critical.
“The fight against illicit trade can be won if both the Government and private sector work together to address the issue,” she said. “We call on members of the public to continue to seek out information on your products before you purchase, especially if you feel that a brand has been comprised in any way.”
She believes another measure which may help eliminate the scourge of illicit trade is the development of stringent guidelines to ensure free trade zones do not act as havens for illicit trade.
“The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), the OECD and the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade have adopted several recommendations and the TTMA feels that the Government should also review these recommendations and adopt them,” she said.
Globally, Ms. Coosal noted, many countries are plagued with a higher import bill which may give smugglers the opportunity to flood the market with substandard items. She cautioned consumers, businesses and law enforcement to remain vigilant:
“If you suspect a person is engaging in illicit trade, or an item is fake, please contact your nearest Police Station or Crime Stoppers immediately. We cannot allow illegitimate businesses to flourish.”
According to the TTMA, illicit trade continues to deprive the Government of revenue collection efforts and poses serious health risks to consumers. Illicit trade affects all consumer goods and products such as clothes, makeup, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, fashion jewellery, food, etc. A collaborative effort among public and private sectors and law enforcement authorities is required to develop methods to deal with the scourge of illicit trade.
TTMA’s Illicit Trade Desk was formed in 2018 as part of the organisation’s thrust to increase awareness and reduce instances of illicit trade activities in Trinidad and Tobago. The effects of illicit trade are numerous and include a loss of revenue to the Government, the provision of sub-standard goods, and the erosion of legitimate businesses (the latter affects the jobs of many). TTMA recognises the adversities associated with illicit trade and supports initiatives geared towards eradicating these activities in Trinidad and Tobago.