As people, governments, big businesses, small businesses and civil societies across the globe grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, criminal syndicates are taking advantage and illicit trade is thriving.
The Covid-19 outbreak has offered new opportunities for criminals who have taken advantage of the high demand for products like cigarette and alcohol that are banned under level five of lockdown.
During the lockdown, shops and wholesalers have been banned from selling alcohol or cigarettes and we are thereby seeing a surge in illicit trade.
What was initially welcomed as good news and a shot in the arm on the economy following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that from last week Friday (May 1), the country will move to level 4 lockdown restrictions and see the unbanning of cigarettes, has suddenly turned into economic nightmare.
Sadly, the government has since backtracked on its decision to allow the sale of cigarette, with the Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma citing health reasons as key to the sudden u turn, and this would have a ‘dire impact’ on the already shattered economy.
The government must reconsider the nationwide ban as smokers and drinkers will more likely buy from underground syndicates and fuel illicit trade of goods.
Crime, like the virus, never sleeps, and it is concerning and frightening that somewhere out there in this country, there is a possibility of a syndicate planning its next move of producing counterfeit facemasks, substandard hand sanitisers and unauthorised antiviral medication, as witnessed in some European countries.
Like in the case of cigarettes and alcohol, this pandemic has sparked new and high market demand for personal protection and hygiene products, and desperate South Africans, like in other countries, will be easy fodder for criminals in these challenging times.
Criminals are very quick to adapt well-known fraud schemes to capitalise on the anxieties and fears of victims throughout the crisis.
The sale of counterfeit healthcare and sanitary products as well as personal protective equipment and counterfeit pharmaceutical products has increased manifold since the outbreak of the crisis. There is a risk that counterfeiters will use shortages in the supply of some goods to increasingly provide counterfeit alternatives.
Opening the economy to level 4 lockdown saw 1.5 million workers head back to work. This will result in higher demand for masks and other personal protection equipment and further create a fertile ground for counterfeit medical products.
Despite the fact that the country under lockdown is fertile ground for illicit trade of goods, as business in partnership with other stakeholders, we remain resolute in the fight against this scourge so as to create a conducive environment for economic recovery and ultimately growth once this pandemic is over.
This article was written by Tebele Luthuli MD of Business Against Crime SA
Read more Covid-19 related posts here.
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