An Accra Circuit Court on Tuesday began hearing the case involving two Chinese immigrants allegedly in possession of quantities of fake green close-up tooth paste products marked with a counterfeit trade mark belonging to Unilever Ghana.
The two, Tang Wei, a businessman and Chen Chuping, a saleslady, who pleaded not guilty, have been granted bail in the sum of GH¢20,000 with one surety each.
In his evidence, led by Assistant Superintendent of Police Paul Kofi Frimpong, the Marketing Director of Unilever Ghana, Mr. Prince Asante Obeng told the court, presided over by Mrs. Justice Elizabeth Ankomah that for some time now Unilever Ghana had been battling with counterfeit products on the market which put the health of its consumers at risk.
He pointed out that analyses conducted by the Ghana Standards Board (GSB) said consumers who used such fake product experienced gum bleeding.
Unilever, a transnational company with subsidiaries in other parts of the world, had its own registered trade mark which distinguished their products from counterfeits ones.
Comparing the fake green Close-up tooth paste with the original or the genuine one, he stated that the discrepancies in the product packing and the high level of FLUORIDE of the fake product created mouth sores for consumers.
Throwing more light on the difference of both the fake product and the original one, Mr Asante said Unilever had divided the West African sub-region into two for marketing strategic purposes, namely the Francophone and Anglophone markets.
He said according to their business policy, Francophone markets sold the green close-up toothpaste with instructions written in French, manufactured by Unilever in Cote d’Ivoire, whilst the red close-up toothpaste was produced for its Anglophone market with instructions written in English language.
Mr Asante said apart from a lot of French grammatical mistakes mixed with English language on the fake one, the colour of the pack is dark green. It has thick or deep green paste with a menthol-like flavour which is completely different from the original one which has a light green box, with a translucent like paste with a refreshing soothing mint-like paste.
Mr. Asante said his sales manager in-charge of the Okaishie and Makola informed him that some hawkers were selling some green Close-up at below the normal price and therefore engaged the services of Industry and Market Support System, a research firm, to conduct investigations into the matter of the source of the green Close-up tooth paste.
He said after some days the Director of Industry and support system, Mr. Cherubim Awaeye came up with six tubes of the green Close-up and said he had found the source and that the stock had come from China. He subsequently wrote to the subsidiary branch in China whether such a product has come from them to Ghana and the reply was negative.
Counsel for the accused persons Mr. Peter Zwennes objected to the tendering in of a letter purported to have come from the sister company.
He said, “the letter was not addressed to anybody and it could be that the letter was written by anybody at all. Again the letter is not dated and more significantly the letter was not signed” and he asked the court not to admit the letter into evidence.
This, the court obliged, and said a cursory look at the letter showed that the letter did not have a date and signature.
The case has been adjourned to March 19, 2009.
In late November 2006, Unilever Ghana began to see green tooth pastes on the market and became alert.
The company therefore conducted Market Support System, a firm to conduct research the source of the counterfeit products.
On November 12, 2006, Chuping sold to a witness in the case six pieces of green close-up tooth paste at GH¢2.50.
On December 12, 2006 Chuping collected GH¢200 from a witness as a deposit to sell to him cartons of Close-up tooth paste and issued to him VAT service invoice receipt number 17735279.
Thereafter, they were subsequently arrested. During a search at Wei’s warehouse at Mallam, four cartons of the green Close-up tooth paste were retrieved.
Samples of the Close-up tooth paste were sent to the Ghana Standards Board for analytical examination which proved that the green Close-up tooth paste retrieved from the two accused persons were fake products.