A COUNTERFEIT operation involving the repacking of poor quality rice into Solrais packs has been uncovered in the Western Province resulting in the arrest of the shop owners.
The operation came to light after the SolRice management recently worked with undercover agents and the Seghe police to close down to the alleged counterfeit packing operation which has been operating from a store in Seghe, Marovo Lagoon.
The shop was alleged to have 19 cartons of counterfeit packaging and packing equipment ready to fool more consumers in the region into thinking they were eating Solrais, it was revealed.
“In fact, they were buying a poor quality substitute rice from Asia believing it to be Solrais which is an Australian rice of a much higher quality,” the report claimed.
The bags are clearly copies of the Solrais 1kg pack, as per the picture shown in this report.
General Manager of SolRice Nick Ellis told the Solomon Star while confirming the illegal operation said “this is an unforgivable, fraudulent act which intentionally deceives our consumers and we will not allow this to happen.”
He said they will track down all counterfeit operations and will, with the assistance of the police prosecute the offenders to the limit of the law.
Mr Ellis indicated that SolRice is aware of other counterfeit operations and is building a case against each prior to working with the police to raid the stores and arrest those involved.
“Let the Seghe example be a warning to these unscrupulous retailers and importers, that we are aware of what you are doing and we will protect our brand and loyal consumers at all costs.
“We advise strongly that the counterfeiters, no matter where you are in the country, to cease this highly illegal trade immediately as we will close you down and ensure you face court and the full force of the law,” he said.
When asked why the packaging is illegal, despite some subtle changes to the brand name, Mr Ellis said “these despicable people think that by making small changes to the packaging, they are protected.
“This is not the case. SolRice and our parent company, Ricegrowers of Australia, have trade mark and copyright protection and this allows protection from copies that may not be the same but look similar.
“This includes brand names, symbols, icons, logo’s, pack details and a number of other protections. In this case, removing an ‘s’ from the name Solrais, does not protect the perpetrators of this illegal act,” he said.
Mr Ellis said he was very impressed with the support shown by the Seghe Police team and the police prosecution unit in shutting down this illegal operation and capturing the evidence needed for a successful prosecution to come.
“Police in Seghe were helpful and proactive and were very professional in their dealings with my team and the alleged counterfeiters, who are currently in jail.
“However, I believe there are more people involved in this case and the other cases under observation.
“We want to arrest and prosecute everybody involved, particularly the big guns who supply the packaging and the poor quality rice that goes into it,” he said.
The SolRice General Manager also told the paper SolRice is aware of and watching very closely other cases, including a similar illegal operation in China Town, Honiara, one in Gizo and one in Noro.
He hopes to gather enough evidence to bring the police in on these cases also.
The Company boss said the public have also been critical to the SolRice success in closing down these operations so far, by reporting the fake Solrais to their team when they find it in shops across the country.
He warned Solrais consumers to be careful when purchasing Solrais 1kg and ensure they purchase only the original Solrais.
He asks that consumers gather evidence and report any suspicious activity or packaging, to SolRice if they see it or buy it.