By JULIEN NEAVES Wednesday, January 22 2014
LOCAL juice manufacturer SM Jaleel yesterday reported that the cans carrying their labels that were used to traffic $640 million cocaine in a shipment from Trinidad to the Norfolk Port, Virginia in the United States (US) were carrying counterfeit labels.
“The labels were counterfeit, they were not authentic. They were fake!” the company stated in all capitals as part of a release on its website.
“An internal examination showed that the labels used on the Trinidad Juices product found in the port of Norfolk are counterfeit. The colour of the text disclosing the net fluid ounces on the original and authentic labels are light green, whereas the colour of that text on the product which has been seized is dark green,” the release added.
The company reported that its lawyers in the US are in contact with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to confirm the details of the shipment and noted that it has been necessary to contact the DEA in the US directly to “ascertain details”.
“The DEA has been investigating this matter since December 20th, 2013, over one month ago. To date, SM Jaleel has not been contacted by the DEA,” the company stressed.
The company also quoted media reports that the counterfeit goods were shipped on November 17, 2013 in container XINU1072048, using the shipping line Mediterranean Shipping Company by Caribbean Works Ltd of 107, Windy Ridge Road, Goodwood Park, Trinidad.
The company stressed there has been no recall of their products and reported that in the US the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recalled any products manufactured by SM Jaleel, including Trinidad Juices as there was no liquid in the cans.
“They have not recalled the product because they do not consider it to be a threat to the public. In fact, the FDA cleared five of SM Jaleel’s containers just today, January 21, 2014 and everything was OK,” the company added.
The company also pointed out that it passed all international factory and quality audits in 2013 and was audited by three of the top inspection agencies in the world. The company’s marketing department also responded to questions from Newsday via fax yesterday on the fall out experienced by the company following the drug find.
“There has been some fall out, but thankfully the majority of our consumers seemed to have realised that the product in question was counterfeit and not authentic. Despite the negative publicity, our products do not seem to have lost credibility in the USA which is important,” the fax stated. SM Jaleel reported that three of their senior executives have been participating in radio and TV talk shows to explain this “complex situation and to communicate the truth to the public”.
Questioned whether there has been any impact on their wholesale or retail sales the company responded there was “some but thankfully our loyal customers are standing by us through thick and thin”.
“After doing business with many of them for generations they are sympathetic to our situation.”
The company noted that the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association and the Chamber of Commerce “have been very helpful and supportive”. On measures to mitigate a repeat of the incident the company reported that “new rules which require the registration of exporters and which tighten the process of exporting likely to be introduced as a result of this episode. This will give greater protection to the manufacturing sector and legitimate supporters.”
The company has been in contact with the Port Authority and the Ministry of Trade on beefing up security on goods being exported. The company also reported that to date its representatives have not been interviewed by local law enforcement on the find.
Currently a joint team of investigators comprising agents of the DEA and local officers from the Strategic Services Agency (SSA), National Operations Centre (NOC) and Customs and Excise, were hot on the trail of the local crime syndicate believed to be behind the drugs.
Also yesterday the Shipping Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) issued a release defending Seaboard Marine (Trinidad), which is the regular shipper for SM Jaleel. The Association noted the company is one of its long standing members and endorses its statements that it was in no way involved in the recent drug bust.
SATT noted that: the Port of Port-of-Spain has confirmed that the shipment did in fact originate from that port, and was carried by a shipping line and not Seaboard Marine (Trinidad); Seaboard Marine operates exclusively out of the Port of Point Lisas; the company offers full container load service only; and it does not offer a service to Norfolk, Virginia.