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Consumer Reports

New Interpol panel to combat global crime | (UPI) -- Spurred by the security threats from last September's attacks on the United States, a new group of private industry, customs and law enforcement experts is to meet next Thursday at Interpol in Lyon, France to map out a strategy to combat organized crime engaged in counterfeiting, with possible links to terrorism and trafficking in arms and narcotics.

"Our objective is to raise awareness and create a strategic plan to fight this kind of crime," said Erik Madsen, a crime intelligence officer with Interpol.

The expert body's mission is to facilitate investigation into counterfeiting, as well as taking some direct action initiatives, Madsen said in an interview Tuesday.

He said the global agenda "has changed in the last year," and that investigations into organized crime involving counterfeiting and other activities such as arms and drug trafficking, must also look into the international nature of terrorism.

"We have to link and globally create a new awareness that the more stakeholders we have, the more, and better, intelligence we can have. Of course, you can't share everything, but at least the willingness to render international cooperation, that's basic," Madsen said.

The panel, which is to have about 20 members, was created in late July. It will include representative of major international industries, anti-counterfeit groups, U.S. Customs, the European Union, and customs and police officers from across the world.

Major global organizations, such as the World Customs Organization, will also be represented.

Madsen said that fighting international crime couldn't be done by just police officers, industry or regulators. "We need modern thinking here; we need a multi-agency approach," he said.

Links between counterfeiting and terrorism were highlighted by experts during a two-day conference here on fighting counterfeit production of pharmaceuticals.

Reconnaissance International, a British anti-counterfeiting consultancy, pointed out that the money made by counterfeiting funds both criminals and terrorists.

Counterfeit baby formula, it said, had been linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and counterfeit bovine injectables to the IRA in Britain.

Moreover, writer and author Robert Cockburn told delegates the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is preparing regulations "to fight fake drugs, which it sees as a vehicle of terrorism with its infinite consumer reach."

Asked if since the Sept. 11 attacks there had been concern over possible lethal counterfeits, Benjamin L. England, regulatory counsel with the FDA, told United Press International: "We regulate consumable products, things that people put in their mouths and on their bodies.

"Consequently, we have to take into consideration the fact that there exists the risk that somebody would be interested in contaminating a product or counterfeiting a product in reaching the consumer."

Thomas Kubic, executive director of the Virginia-based Pharmaceutical Security Institute and a former FBI investigator, told UPI: "There's a nexus between terrorism, drug trafficking, and counterfeiting."

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