FRANKLIN, Tenn (WKRN) — Tuesday morning, Governor Bill Lee addressed the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce about the consequences of illicit drug and counterfeit goods sales on the state’s economy.
“It not only impacts the victims of illegal trade. It impacts trade in general. It impacts the business community in general” Governor Lee said.
When criminals sell fake products, real businesses suffer. Like Tennessee-based whiskey manufacturer Jack Daniel’s.
Larry Combs is the Senior Vice President of the Jack Daniels global supply chain.
“We’ve now been in Tennessee for 155 years. One of the most valuable trademarks in the world. One of the most trusted brands. So it’s really really important that we protect that brand, our reputation for quality, and protect our consumers,” Combs said.
According to Combs, the number one way for criminals to counterfeit Jack Daniels is to take an empty bottle and refill it.
Instead, Combs says the whiskey company designs specific bottles, labels, and merchandise to combat illegal commerce. They also provide customers with tools like QR codes to verify authenticity.
“We invest a lot in fighting this counterfeit product and illegal trade because the last thing we want to happen is to have one of our consumers have a bad experience or a consequence from buying counterfeit or illegal product,” Combs said.
Kristin Reif, Director of Illicit Trade Prevention with Philip Morris International, says about $2.2 trillion is lost globally per year due to illegal trading. “The quantity of illegal trade, it’s enormous. The issue in itself is overwhelming,” Reif said.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director, David Rausch, says the TBI investigates thousands of illegal trade cases a year. Most of the cases involve drug and sex trafficking, or the sale of counterfeit products like fake Tennessee Titans merchandise.
Rausch also pointed out that when criminals are selling illegal goods or services, they’re not paying taxes. “It doesn’t just impact the corporations that we depend on, it impacts our state and the ability to provide the services that we provide,” Rausch said.
The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce also calls Tennessee a key transportation hub for the southern United States based on its geographic location. Criminals transport contraband through the state in tractor-trailers, private vehicles, and package delivery services.