The National Customs Service of Ecuador has recently created the Specific Task Force and the Customs Surveillance Corps to combat counterfeiting and smuggling, which seriously affect legitimate business activities as well as the Treasury.
A large majority of the counterfeit goods in Ecuador and in other countries of the region are imported, so those who introduce such items in the marketplace are in the majority of cases are committing the offence of dealing in contraband.
The local production of counterfeits in Ecuador, especially luxury brands and electronic products, is low. Therefore, most of the counterfeit products of recognized or luxury brands (wallets, watches, clothing, electronics, cell phone accessories, etc.) are manufactured outside Ecuador and their entry into the country is almost always illegal.
The illicit entry into the country of counterfeit products prompts the direct action of special Customs groups responsible for control and seizure, and destruction when appropriate. All this is done in order to remove from the market those products that, in addition to being illegal due to their origin, defraud the Treasury of tariffs and other taxes corresponding to imports.
Article 301 of the Criminal Code classifies the crime of contraband punishable by imprisonment for three to five years, and a fine of up to three times the customs value of seized products if said value is equal to or exceeds ten basic unified wages. (Currently US $ 3,940.00)
The same code establishes counterfeiting as an aggravating circumstance of the offence, in which case the maximum penalty will be imposed.
In an astute move, the National Customs Service of Ecuador created the “Specific Task Force”, made up of inspectors of the highest rank and proven reputation inside and outside the institution. This task force was also assigned auxiliary personnel that share the same characteristics and have demonstrated absolute honesty and dedication to their job.
A personal experience confirms what was stated above. On one occasion when the group had to wait approximately two hours to proceed with a seizure, members of the mentioned group decided to make good use of that time carrying out a fieldwork in the surrounding areas; this allowed them to seize more than 15,000 smuggled cigarettes that had entered the country. Having done that, they proceeded with the scheduled seizure.
In each counterfeiting case that we have worked on, we collaborated with Customs authorities providing information and identifying possible seizure targets. Also, when appropriate, the formal complaint was filed, and to prevent the counterfeit products from returning to the market, their condition was corroborated.
With our presence in the operations, offenders see their options to hinder the seizure procedure limited, because when the representatives of the brand owner certify that the seized products are counterfeit, there is no doubt or speculation about their origin.
Local industry and formal commerce in general have made a great effort to comply with mandatory technical regulations, especially labeling. This aspect is very helpful in prosecuting these offences because if the products do not meet the mandatory labeling requirements, they can be considered contraband. Therefore, their seizure is ordered, regardless of whether or not they are counterfeit.
We have decided to continue supporting Customs’ work in the fight against counterfeiting and smuggling, providing the tools to make their work more and more efficient. The constant training of personnel carrying out legitimate activities affected by these offences is another way of supporting the authorities in this work.