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20 March 2014

INTERPOL-supported operation in Qatar leads to major seizure of illicit goods

LYON, France – Tens of thousands of counterfeit products were seized across Qatar during the first INTERPOL-coordinated operation to combat trafficking in illicit goods and counterfeiting held in the Middle East.

Carried out in partnership with the Qatar Ministry of Interior and the INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) in Doha, Operation Al Shaheen (meaning ‘falcon’, 12-16 March), supported by INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods and Counterfeiting (TIGC) unit, involved more than 600 raids throughout the country at shops, markets and retail outlets. It resulted in the confiscation of some 140,000 illicit products and 147 individuals placed under investigation.

Among the fake items seized were car parts, tobacco products, cosmetics, food, mobile phones and household appliances. Counterfeit and potentially dangerous products were removed from nearly 300 stores across the country.

“The health and safety of our citizens is a priority for the Ministry of Interior and Qatari law enforcement,” said Director General of Public Security of Qatar, Saad Bin Jassim Al Khulaifi.

“Operation Al Shaheen provides us with a strong foundation for future efforts to tackle all illicit trade and intellectual property crime here in Qatar and across the region. We are ready to coordinate with other countries in order to build an alliance in the fight against this type of crime,” he concluded.

The operation, also supported by INTERPOL’s NCB coordination unit for the Middle East and North Africa, was preceded by a three-day training course which brought together more than 120 participants from 20 countries and private sector partners to learn the techniques used in different countries to combat counterfeiting and illicit trade.

“With NCB Qatar coordinating the exchange of information and intelligence between INTERPOL and Qatari law enforcement agencies in the field, Operation Al Shaheen exemplifies our joint efforts with INTERPOL to tackle trafficking in illicit goods and counterfeiting products in the Middle East and North Africa,” said General Khalifa Alnasser, Head of NCB Qatar.

Further demonstrating the country’s commitment to fighting the transnational criminal networks behind the trafficking of illicit goods, in January this year Qatar was the first country to request an INTERPOL Purple Notice in connection with illicit trade after the seizure of a Chinese-made machine used to change expiry dates on food and drink products.  

Purple Notices are used to seek or provide information on modi operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.

“It is well known that criminals involved in trafficking of illicit goods are well organized. They manufacture and distribute counterfeit and pirated goods worldwide, without consideration of the negative impact it may have on the consumers and the fabric of society,” said  INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin.

“This complex and diverse situation demands a comprehensive global partnership approach to firmly focus on the transnational criminals responsible for these activities,” added Mr Louboutin.

Michael Ellis, Head of the TIGC programme, applauded the commitment of Qatari authorities to tackling and turning back counterfeit crime in the region, with the Middle East and North Africa ‘key geographical hubs’ for the import and export of counterfeit merchandise.

Launched in 2012, INTERPOL’s TIGC initiative seeks to identify, disrupt and dismantle the transnational organized networks behind this crime and has already led to the seizure of counterfeit items worth more than USD 300 million and hundreds of arrests worldwide

INTERPOL’s initiative assists police across its 190 member countries to not only target the transnational crime groups but also identify the routes used in transporting illicit goods, which are often also used for human trafficking and drug smuggling.