CATHERINE SASMAN - The ministry of finance says it will intensify the enforcement of the law on the clearance of imports to ensure compliance with intellectual property rights and payment of the applicable duties and taxes.
The ministry was responding to a complaint that customs and excise officials are unfairly confiscating imported goods, mainly from China and other Asian countries.
The ministry said smuggling counterfeit products is a serious crime.
“Our officials are not confiscating items for their personal gain, but it is an official action to strengthen clearance mechanisms,” the ministry said.
It said the detention of imported parcels and other goods is part of the enforcement of the Intellectual Property Rights Act and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Treaty on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, to which Namibia is a signatory.
The Namibia Customs and Excise Act prohibits the importation of counterfeit goods.
This Act states that no unlawful reproductions of any copyrighted item may be imported into Namibia unless a permit is issued by the executive director of the industrialisation ministry.
The executive director may also prohibit or restrict the transit of any such goods through Namibia.
The customs and excise office has access to the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA) database, which lists companies and trademarks registered as right holders in Namibia.
It also collaborates and coordinates with international brand holders’ representatives for verification of the authenticity of branded goods.
The ministry said customs and excise officials will ensure that suspected pirated goods are verified for authenticity before being released to their owner.
The verification process takes ten days. If goods are found to be counterfeit, the right holder will have to provide an affidavit within 14 working days to the Commissioner for Customs and Excise. The right holder can also apply for an extension of an additional 14 days.
If the right holder does not follow this procedure, the customs and excise office will construe that the client has accepted the outcome of the verification process.
Non-branded goods that pose a possible health risk, such as medicines, toiletries, chemicals and detergents, will be removed from parcels and destroyed. Unbranded clothing will be released to the owner.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) last year impounded a container with medicines from China because it was rejected by the Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council (NMRC). The medicines, valued at N$8.1 million, had been earmarked for the public health sector.
The Chinese company then dragged seven Namibian entities to court in an effort to retrieve the container. The matter was struck from the High Court roll in the middle of September. [email protected]