Piracy could be financing terrorism in RP — US expert

By Erwin Oliva
Last updated 03:18pm (Mla time) 07/11/2007

PASIG CITY, Philippines — Proponents of protecting intellectual property rights in the Philippines said the issue raised by an American expert on the possibility of counterfeit products funding terrorism is a “valid concern that we cannot ignore.”


With the Human Security Act of 2007, also known as the anti-terrorism act, taking effect on June 15, Jeffrey Williams, a former a special agent with the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI), said there was now more evidence showing links
between organized crime groups and counterfeit goods.


“Are we unwittingly supporting terrorist operations through the purchase of counterfeit goods, especially goods such as counterfeit CDs or DVDs, a local industry where many of those involved have strong ties to the Middle East and possibly interests inimical to those of the local and US governments?” Williams posed, as he discussed this
issue with a local organization championing of intellectual property rights protection.


“Sounds incredible? So were the plans to fly commercial airliners into the Twin Towers in New York City that were seized in the Philippines in 1995 during an operation targeting Ramsey Yousef, until six years later,:” added Williams.


Specializing in global counterintelligence matters for the past 23 years, Williams said the links between the massive sale of counterfeit products and terrorism have been clearly established.


Williams cited Ronald Noble, secretary general for Interpol, during a House Committee on International Relations in the US Congress on July 16, 2003 who said that the link between organized crime groups and counterfeit goods were now established.


“However, he also sounded the alarm that Intellectual Property Crime (IPC) is becoming the preferred method of funding for a number of terrorist groups,” said Williams in a written report, a copy of which was obtained by INQUIRER.net.


Williams said Noble believed there was increasing evidence that “terrorists would follow organized crime into the counterfeiting business,” he added.


The US intelligence expert quoted Noble as saying that the counterfeiting business is “a low-risk, high-profit crime area that for most governments and most police forces is not a high priority. And therefore criminals are more likely to want to get involved in
this area rather than drug trafficking.”


Reacting to this report, the Intellectual Property Coalition members said the “revelation” made by the US intelligence expert has somehow confirmed their suspicions.


Jun Rodriguez, general counsel and director of the IP Coalition, admitted that he was quite skeptical about the links between the counterfeiting business and terrorism.


“In the Philippines this might not be that evident yet, but it is a valid concern that we cannot ignore,” Rodriguez said in a telephone interview.


He said there are some indications of this link, but admitted that “we don’t know the extent of these links.”


“It is something that we should be looking into,” he added. “We will include this in our messaging to the public and government.”


Williams said that the trade in counterfeit or pirated goods in the past 20 years has grown. He said the counterfeiting industry drained an estimated $5.5 billion from the global economy in 1982. In 1996, he said the figure jumped to an estimated $200 billion.


“Today, the FBI, as well as US Customs and Border Agents approximate the figure to range between $450-500 billion per year. The Business Software Alliance and the US automobile industry are estimated to be losing close to $15 billion dollars annually each,” he said.


He added that Carrutu International PLC, a leading intellectual property rights investigative firm based in the UK, estimated that the global counterfeit market accounts for 9 percent of world trade and would likely double in the next two to three years.


Williams was assigned to the US Embassy, Manila in 1984, working Philippine-wide with the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.


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