Durban – Durban is a powerhouse transport hub, but it’s also a magnet for smugglers and counterfeiters.
But provincial police head Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula has vowed to act against the people who are costing the country millions in lost revenue. “We will be knocking on the door of these tradespeople around the city.”
Jula joined police and other law enforcement units who swooped on four stores across Durban yesterday, seizing counterfeit designer clothing, illegal pharmaceuticals and dangerous cosmetic products.
In a crime intelligence-led operation which included members from the Hawks, SAPS units, Asset Forfeiture Unit, eThekwini metro police and Customs and Immigration, officers arrived at the first targeted shop on Pixley kaSeme Street (West), near the beachfront.
As police vehicles pulled up in front of the clothing store, the doors of surrounding clothing shops slammed shut.
Representatives from luxury brand suppliers were also at the scene to identify suspected counterfeit goods including shoes, jeans, shirts and dresses.
While those on the warrant specified a search for elite brands Diesel, Hugo Boss and Puma, the store contained a number of other high-end brands, including Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
Brand representatives Vicky von Biljon and Michiel Botha moved rapidly through the shop, sweeping counterfeit products onto a fast-growing pile on the floor.
Biljon said she and Botha represented 90% of the high-end brands in the country.
“Counterfeiting is an on-going problem and a growing problem. It negatively impacts on our business and snowballs into other industries. It also has an impact on the fiscus.
“These goods are falsely declared and no taxes are paid. We have found that it is largely foreigners involved, not South Africans,” said Biljon.
Police confirmed a second clothing store in central Durban was simultaneously being raided.
Jula said: “This is a multi-disciplinary operation which arises from a lot of contraband and counterfeit goods being smuggled into this country and particularly this province.
“Looking at all the products being piled on the floor, these are all brand names. There are quite a number of shops in Durban conducting this type of business which we will be targeting in future operations. We will be knocking on the door of these trades people around the city.
“This is impacting negatively on our economy. While all the goods confiscated today will be under investigation, we know that counterfeit goods come through our ports, airports and by road,” said Jula.
From the beachfront, the different law enforcement units returned to their vehicles and moved rapidly into the city centre to a shop on Dorothy Nyembe (Gardiner) Street.
Also arriving, Masilo Mopai from the SA Health Product Regulatory Authority, said products which could be seized included schedule 4 drugs which can only be sold under prescription, and dangerous cosmetic products.
“We will be looking particularly for skin lighteners and products offered for skin conditions.
“These sub-standard products can cause cancer and pose a health risk,” said Mopai.
SAPS KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker urged the public not to buy counterfeit and smuggled goods.
“All the goods seized today will form part of the investigation. It’s important to remember the people involved in this are not paying tax.
Consumers who support these brands should go to reputable stores,” said Naicker.
When the Independent on Saturday left the scene, police were planning to move to the fourth targeted business where it was expected illegal cigarettes would be seized.