Cops pull plug on fake soap powder
NEWS / 31 Jan '13, 1:31pmBy: Anelisa Kubheka
Durban - Police have warned consumers in Durban that some of the “Sunlight” washing powder they have been using could be a cheap and potentially dangerous knock-off.
This follows the arrest on Wednesday of a man allegedly running a fake washing powder factory in Jacobs, in south Durban.
A joint anti-corruption operation between Sars, Customs and SAPS crime intelligence led to a bus of a factory in Jacobs where fake washing powder had been packed into Sunlight washing powder packaging. Photo: Sbu Ndlov. Credit: DAILY NEWS
The fake packaging appeared identical, except that the real product had an expiry date, said police spokesman Colonel Vincent Mdunge.
Police and customs investigators had conducted a three-month probe of the activities of the suspect, who is believed to be part of a Chinese syndicate importing goods in containers via Durban harbour.
The fake Sunlight powder could have been sold for well over a year, said Mdunge.
“One container seal was found on the factory premises, but the amount of washing powder found in plastics on the premises indicates that there could have been more than 10 containers (used to import) the powder into Durban.”
He said the fake powder could be highly dangerous to consumers because the volume of chemicals used was uncontrolled.
“Original Sunlight washing powder was also found on the premises and this is just what any syndicate does to cover (its) tracks,” Mdunge said. “When the premises were searched, the fake powder was found (in large containers) and this could amount to millions (of rand).”
However, he said the exact value of the washing powder would be known only once the investigation was complete.
“It is suspected that the fake powder was distributed to large retail shops mainly targeting consumers living below the breadline,” Mdunge said.
He added that the suspect would appear in court soon to face charges of fraud and contravening the Counterfeit Goods Act.
While the harbour employed technology to screen containers for contraband, the senders and recipients of the goods also had to declare their contents, he said.
Police suspect that in this case that a false declaration was made.
“The owner of the factory is out of the country and we now know his identity and are hoping for an arrest as soon as he’s back in the country,” Mdunge said.