Last week raids on seven San Jose stores was carried, where it is presumed that counterfeit brand clothing was being sold. | COURTESY OF THE OIJ

Q COSTA RICA – In 2014 a special unit was created to deal with complaints about the marketing of fake garments, and since then it has received an average of five complaints a month.

The market for fake clothing brands in the country has been growing, according to the authorities at the Fiscalía de Delitos Económicos, Tributarios y Aduaneros (Economic, Tax and Customs Crimes Prosecutor’s office), which claims to receive five complaints per month.

Regarding how this false merchandise gets into the country, the authorities explained to that it enters in two ways. “… The first – and main one – is when Costa Ricans travel to the United States or Panama to buy an original garment of a specific brand. They then send it to a contact they have in China.

There, they are responsible for ‘multiplying’ that garment and then it is imported. Sometimes they also order in products from Peru and Guatemala. The second way is to manufacture the merchandise in Costa Rica, but this is less common, said Frankarlo Pessoa, deputy prosecutor for Economic, Tax and Customs Crimes. ”

Pessoa added: “…”We have stopped containers at the borders that are carrying materials for manufacturing, such as buttons and labels. This is an important indication that [a product] is going to be manufactured in the country.”

Because it is a business that is being developed abroad, the OIJ said that its investigation is “complex”.

“There is much to determine. It is not only a matter of whether the product is counterfeit or not, but we have to try to locate manufacturers; That is to say, whether (garments) come from outside or are produced here,” said an agent of the OIJ’s Miscellaneous Crimes Section, who asked to reserve his identity.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor compared the investigation for this crime with that of drug trafficking. He pointed out that, after the complaint is filed, he coordinates with OIJ agents to make controlled purchases.

“Once you have the product, comparisons are made with an original. An expert on the brand is called in to make an opinion,” he added.

If the garment is counterfeit, the accused can be asked to pay a fine or up to five years imprisonment.

However, despite the fact that the penalties are established, the prosecution has obtained a conviction in only one case in the last three years.

As explained by the Pessoa, that is because the parties try to reconcile at the preliminary hearing, thus avoiding going to trial.

“In many cases, it happens that they reach a financial agreement and that the counterfeit product be destroyed,” he said.