Trevor Little

While South African authorities continue to investigate the murder of customs official Johan Nortje, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organisation (WCO) have refused to comment on calls for a wider investigation into the crime.

Last week, the IOL news website reported that, following the arrest of the alleged gunman, senior police sources stated that they would continue efforts to “track down whoever ordered the hit”. The IP community has also called for a wider investigation into the alleged connections between Nortje’s apparent assassination and the counterfeit gangs he cracked, with South African law firms calling for the Police Organised Crime Unit, INTERPOL and the WCO to take the lead.

The secretary generals of the latter two organisations were in Paris today for the Global Congress on Counterfeiting and Piracy. However, when WTR asked Ronald Noble, secretary general of INTERPOL, to comment on the calls for a wider investigation, he stated: “It is easy for me to answer this question because it is not our policy to comment on an ongoing investigation.” 

Kunio Mikuriya, secretary general of the WCO, adopted a similar stance, adding: “The murder of an enforcement officer who worked with customs and received training from us was a tragic event. We will have to see how the investigation unfolds.”

While the level of INTERPOL and WCO involvement in current investigation efforts remains unclear, the incident has clearly resonated with the anti-counterfeiting community. A number of speakers at the Global Congress commented on the incident - in the opening plenary, Mikuriya stated that Nortje “was a good family man” and cited the murder as an example of how “counterfeiting kills. It is our duty to wipe this out, to save lives”.

Christophe Zimmerman, coordinator, combating counterfeiting and piracy, compliance and facilitation directorate, WCO, added that the incident is not an isolated one: “These guys don’t hesitate to murder customs officials. We recently lost a colleague in Mexico as well.”

Testimonials and an online petition calling for an urgent investigation into the murder of Johan Nortje are available on Afro-IP.

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