When a world-class team like Spain’s Real Madrid or Costa Rica’s national team, La Sele and many others present a new line of clothing for their teams, few imagine that in a matter of days an almost exact replica, down to every detail, even the sponsor logos, will be available in stores in downtown San Jose.

A PCF agent takes stock of the seized fake jerseys on Tuesday at the Juan Santamaria (San Jos) international airport. Photo courtesy of PCF

The business of counterfeiting has been growing in Costa Rican in an excessive way and not just to t-shirts and sportswear. Counterfeit jewelry, footwear or casual wear products and more are available in Costa Rica, according to the Policía de Control Fiscal (PCF) del Ministerio de Hacienda – the tax police.

On Tuesday, January 16, the PCF reported the seizure of 76 replica jerseys of La Sele in a store located at the Juan Santamaria international airport. The fake jerseys were selling for up to US$200, that’s more than ¢100,000 colones, the buyers mainly being foreigners visiting Costa Rica on vacation.

PCF agents at work on Tuesday at the Juan Santamaria (San Jos) international airport. Photo courtesy of PCF

The Minister of Human Development, Emilio Arias, indicated that the seizure was not made in the Duty Free stores, owned and operatred by the state agency, the Mixed Institute of Social Assistance (IMAS), but in other stores inside the airport.

Of course, they are less elaborate fakes available on the streets of San Jose, Alajuela, and Heredia, for example, at prices between ¢15,000 and ¢20,000 colones.

The PCF does not rule out the jerseys are being manufactured in Costa Rica, however, point to illegal imports from Panama or China.

“It’s a complex phenomenon. We have not only found products of the National Team, which are the complaints we get the most,” said Irving Malespín, director of the PCF.

According to the PCF, the seizure at the airport this week alone was more than ¢7 million colones (US$12,500).

“This (counterfeiting) is increasing. There is a proliferation of this crime, with established and structured groups that are dedicated to the import and even manufacture of these products here in Costa Rica,” added Malespín.

Counterfeiting also represents an economic loss for the businesses that represent the official brands. The PCF estimates that the loss just on the La Sele jerseys could be more than ¢200 million colones in 2017 alone, this based on the confiscation of more than 4,000 jerseys in different places around the country.

However, the tax police chief recognizes that the network is complex and it requires a deeper investigation to get to the root of the problem. “In its majority, this merchandise is not declared in customs, because it enters the country clandestinely in containers through the southern border of Paso Canoas with Panama,’ said the PCF chief.

“A lot of money is generated with this. It could be tied to money laundering and drug trafficking. There is an extremely strong economic power behind the organizations,” Malespín added.

A graphic by Crhoy.com detailing the counterfeit business of the La Sele jerseys

Costa Rica’s Penal Code punishes with prison sentences of 1 to 3 years for the crime of trademark forgery, that includes the sale, distribution and storage That same punishment applies to selling and selling of copies of a registered brand.

For his part, Jason Chaves, executive director of the Observatorio del Comercio Ilícito (OBCI) de la Cámara de Comercio de Costa Rica – the Observatory of Illicit Trade of the Chamber of Commerce of Costa Rica – makes a call on the population to denounce the illicit trade.

The OBCI executive said that if the demand decreased,, there is less incentive for organizations to develop and grow the illegal trade.

PCF contact for complains: pcfdenuncias@hacienda.go.cr or telephone 2539-6800 (24 hours) or 2225-2337 (from 8:00 a.m. a 4 p.m.). Complaints can also be filed online using the following form Denuncias.doc.

Sources: Crhoy.com, Amprensa.com, Ministerio de Hacienda