Baby food, cosmetics, televisions, mobile phones and toys were among goods worth USD 5.6 million seized during an INTERPOL-coordinated operation targeting organized crime groups trading fake and illicit products across Eastern and Southern Africa.
Operation Wipeout was conducted across seven countries – Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia – between April and June which resulted in some 644,000 goods seized and more than 260 individuals arrested or placed under investigation.
The interventions in shops, warehouses, distribution hubs, seaports, highways and streets were staggered throughout the three-month long operation in order to more effectively target the various criminal networks operating in the region.
Involving law enforcement, regulatory bodies, the private sector and in Uganda their Bureau of Standards, authorities targeted products posing a particular danger to the public’s health and safety.
Counterfeit electrical products, such as switches, circuit breakers and other devices designed to provide electricity during power failures were recovered in Kenya; in Uganda electrical cables which failed to meet safety standards were seized; in Tanzania, one tonne of unapproved baby formula and four tonnes of cosmetics containing banned ingredients were destroyed, in addition to the identification and dismantlement of a factory producing fake CDs.
Production of fake CDs on an industrial scale in Tanzania.
Following reports of branded gas cylinders being illegally refilled, resulting in leakages and even fires, more than 100 cylinders were recovered in Kenya. Seizures were also made of illicit insecticides and expired fertiliser which pose a significant health risk in a region where agriculture is a source of income for many families.
Fake clothing and accessories worth USD 3.27 million were seized in Botswana and Namibia where counterfeit clothes were discovered being sold alongside the genuine article at the same prices in a number of shops.
A significant number of night-time interventions were also carried out resulting in the identification of traffickers attempting to smuggle containers of cigarettes and alcohol across the Zambian border and counterfeit cigarettes and energy saving bulbs into South Sudan and Uganda.
The operation was coordinated as part of INTERPOL’s Turn Back Crime campaign which aims to raise public awareness of how crimes can affect people’s daily lives, from potentially life-threatening poor quality counterfeit products, to funding organized crime through buying fake goods.