Eugenie Tumusabinema, 45, was arrested in Nyarugenge Sector, Kiyovu Cell, Nyarurembo Village where the Rwanda National Police (RNP) Anti-smuggling and Organized crimes (ASOC) recovered 2,841 pieces of skin whitening products in her store.
The seized banned cosmetics include Fair & White Miss, Rapid Clear White Absolute, Cocopulp, Miss Light Gold, Gluce C-TM and Epiderme Crème.
Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority (RFDA), in May this year, banned the importation, supply and sell of Fair & White Miss 500ml, Rapid Clear White Absolute 300ml, Gluta C-TM (Intense Whitening) 500ml and Max White S1 Lait Maxitone) 500ml after it detected hydroquinone, which pose "negative effects on human health."
Over 1,300 cream and oil brands with hydroquinone and mercury, were banned in Rwanda.
Chief Inspector of Police (CIP) Sylvestre Twajamahoro, the Police spokesperson in the City of Kigali, said Tumusabinema was operating a cosmetics shop in Nyarurembo village and had a secret store for mainly prohibited creams and oils in about 100 metres from her shop.
“Following a tip-off from some area residents, ASOC went to the said store belonging to Tumusabinema, where 2,841 pieces of assorted skin whitening cosmetics were recovered, leading to her arrest,” said CIP Twajamahoro.
Tumusabinema said she had a supplier in Rubavu District whom she identified as Fabiola Ufitamahoro.
Ufitamahoro allegedly sneaks the skin bleaching cosmetics into Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) before trafficking them into Kigali in small quantities.
CIP Twajamahoro warned anyone trafficking or selling the banned skin bleaching products that operations to arrest them are ongoing.
"Law enforcement organs are working together to arrest all those connected to this unlawful business," CIP Twajamahoro said.
The prohibited cosmetics contain mercury and hydroquinone, which can cause liver damage, reduce resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, and increase anxiety, according to the World Health Organization.
If it enters the bloodstream it also results into fatal liver and kidney damage, although medics say the most immediate visible side effect is skin scarring.
Health experts confirm that prolonged use of corticosteroid creams and lotions can also decrease levels of collagen in the skin.
Collagen strengthens and supports the skin, and a reduced amount can increase the risk of striae commonly known as stretch mark.
The skin bleaching products are labeled illegal under the ministerial order determining the list of cosmetics whose use is prohibited in Rwanda ; the law on organization, functioning, and competence of the Council of Pharmacists ; and the law relating to the regulation and inspection of food and pharmaceutical products.
Article 266 of the law determining offenses and penalties in general, states that any person, who produces, sells, or prescribes harmful products ; cosmetics or body hygiene substance or any other products derived from plants, commits an offence.
Upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than two years and a fine of not less than Rwf3 million and not more than Rwf5 million or one of these penalties.