(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – The police raided two stores operated by Chinese in downtown Kingston yesterday and seized what they described as fake brands valued at more than $300 million.
But the operation, carried out by the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime (CTOC) Investigation Branch, angered some people who said they had no problems with the goods and that they made a living by buying products from the store for resale.
Six Chinese nationals — five men and a woman — were taken into custody during the operation that commenced about 9:00 am at 84 and 88 Princess Street.
Head of CTOC, Assistant Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey, who was at the scene, said both stores had what appeared to be counterfeit products of various brands.
“We have identified a significant amount of counterfeit products — shoes, Adidas, Nike, Louis Vuitton, you name the brand — and so we are in the process of seizing those items, which is going to take us a good while,” Bailey told reporters outside the stores.
The seizure, he said, is part of efforts by CTOC to clamp down on counterfeit goods across the island.
“We have a mandate, and wherever our information leads us, wherever we get the evidence, we are going to pursue, whether it’s breaches of the IP (Intellectual Property) legislation or any other legislation. We will pursue persons who are in breach of the law,” Bailey said.
However, while the police conducted the operation, a number of people who said they were among the stores’ customers fumed.
“Mi come fi buy something and a bare police. Mi come fi buy crepe fi sell back. Mi cyaah buy America crepe fi sell back, it is too expensive and it nuh good neither,” said a vendor who gave her name only as Meme.
The woman, who said she has four children, told reporters that she has been vending for decades and has been purchasing items from the Chinese for a long time.
“Mi cyaah read and mi nuh have no O’ level; mi nuh have nuh dis, mi nuh have nuh dat. It send mi pickney go university. A it mi live off of; mi buy a every store as long as mi can get it. Chiney a don, mi love dem. Mi cry fi dem. If dem head hurt dem, my head hurt mi too. Without dem mi cyaah live,” Meme complained.
“Without the Chiney mi cannot live, mi a tell you from mi heart; you know the reason why? Mi get all credit from dem; nuh black people nah trust mi nothing. Although unnuh [police] say a rubbish, a nuh rubbish fi wi, a good, good things. A inna Chiney wholesale mi buy dah shoes yah and look pon it. Mi wear it; I don’t know weh I don’t do with it. Dem fi low dem,” she said, taking off her shoes to show reporters.
Meme, who was adamant that nothing was wrong with trading in illicit goods, said that the Chinese give customers the opportunity to purchase “name brand” goods.
“Explain to us wha wrong, wah wrong with Chiney coming here and buying. Wi cyaah buy a America, yuh know how much people never wear a real Adidas or a Reebok until when Chiney come in, so how Chiney fi wrong fi do business?” she asked, eliciting support from other people.
Another woman, Kamesha Morgan, who was wearing a pair of Nike sneakers she said she had purchased from one of the stores two years ago, insisted that as soon as the stores are reopened she will be shopping.
“Bwoy, mi never know. Mi a tell you the truth, mi never have a problem with their goods. The price right so mi keep on shopping. Mi buy dem clothes, mi buy dem shoes, mi nuh have a problem with it. It nuh matter,” Morgan said to the amusement of other customers.