Seven tons of counterfeit cosmetics were seized and four people were arrested yesterday during a raid on a house in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, according to police.
Between 15 and 17 different brands of fake soap, balm, lotion and powders were seized during the raid in Chraing Chamres II commune, which led to the arrest of four people involved in making and selling the counterfeit cosmetics, said Lieutenant Colonel Long Sreng, chief of the Interior Ministry’s economic police unit. The owner of the house escaped, Mr Sreng said, adding that police had to wait 30 minutes for a warrant to arrive, which allowed the owner enough time to flee.
The confiscated cosmetics included seven brands of soap—liquid and solid—three brands of perfume and several brands of powders, lotions, creams and balms.
“This is the biggest [Cambodian-run counterfeit cosmetic ring] we’ve cracked down on,” Mr Sreng said. “These cosmetics are homemade. Previously, there were two larger crackdowns, but those were fake cosmetics imported from China.”
The counterfeit cosmetics were modeled after products marketed by several Cambodian companies, including Pich Beauty Co Ltd, which has a monopoly on importing cosmetics from Malaysia, Mr Sreng said.
“Companies file complaints very often with our economic police department in the Ministry of Interior about this owner producing fake products and selling them at markets across the country,” the police chief said.
Mr Sreng added that one of the arrested workers admitted to producing fake cosmetics for the past 13 years.
A Pich Beauty representative, who wished to remain anonymous because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, said counterfeit cosmetics are taking a bite out of the company’s revenue.
“Our production has gone down in the past two years by 50 percent across our market in Cambodia,” the person said yesterday.
“In the past three months, the economic police have cracked down five times on fake soap products that look like our company’s,” the representative said. “But all of the [fake soap] was from Vietnam or China. This is the first crackdown of Cambodian [counterfeit cosmetics].”
Voeung Jimheang, director of the Health Ministry’s Drug and Food Department, called counterfeit cosmetics “out of control” in Cambodia. In order to reduce their prevalence, Mr Jimheang said Cambodia’s General Department of Customs and Excise Tax and the Health Ministry need to work closer together to monitor, register and mark imported cosmetics.
Mr Jimheang said counterfeit cosmetics can damage skin and poison users, because the makers may use harmful chemicals instead of industry-approved substances.
In March, Heng Taykry, secretary of state for the Health Ministry, said Prime Minister Hun Sen asked government officials to monitor cosmetics that could contain hazardous chemicals.
Also that month, a 23-year-old Banteay Meanchey province woman died in a Thai hospital after, her father said, using a skin-whitening cream manufactured in Vietnam. The product, Bao Dam whitening cream, is banned in Thailand because officials there say it contains high levels of mercury.
(Additional reporting by Drew Foster)