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Mastermind sues Ugandan firm over counterfeit cigarettes

By Fredrick Obura

Mastermind Tobacco Limited (MTL) is collecting evidence to help in its case against a Ugandan firm, Leaf Tobacco Company (LTC).

The local firm plans to sue LTC at the East African Court of Justice for infringement of its copyrights of Supermatch cigarettes.

According to Mastermind,  the Ugandan firm has over time counterfeited its flagship brand and sold it cheaply in the Kenyan market.

In the latest incidence, a petrol tanker was spotted being packed with the contraband cigarettes at a Ugandan border post.

 “The cigarettes bear marked resemblance of our brand SuperMatch, but do not have the stipulated warning and standardisation mark.

This makes them unsafe for use in the country apart from Kenya losing critical revenue stream that could otherwise be used in development projects,” said Mr Josh Kirimania, head of corporate communication MTL.

The provisions of the Tobacco Control Act stipulates a cigarette pack should have at least 30 per cent of the front rear and at least 50 per cent of the back rear; the word ‘WARNING’.

“The counterfeit cigarette packages from the suspect is lacking these and the packets lack the standardisation mark by Kebs thus the quality of the cigarettes is  suspect,” added Mr Kirimania

Matermind have been on the war front against counterfeited products being dumped into the country especially from Uganda and Somalia.

This is as a result of the porosity of Kenyan borders with its neighbours only manned at official border posts. Industry players say this costs them reduced sales as consumers opt for the cheaper brands, while the revenue authority loses billions of shillings in unpaid taxes.

In its latest report released in March 2012, the Kenya Anti-Counterfeit Agency noted cigarettes as the leading counterfeited product whose value is estimated to be over Sh80 billion annually.

 Kirimania said their investigation had revealed Meru North, Bungoma and  Kisumu  to be notorious dumping regions for Ugandan counterfeit Supermatch cigarettes.

Others include Kitale, Eldoret, Busia, Nairobi, Thika, Kirinyaga and Embu.