Police burst traffickers of skin bleaching products

On 23 October 2020 at 03:30

Rwanda National Police (RNP) has uncovered a house in Rwezamenyo Sector, Nyarugenge District, which was being used as a store for trafficked skin bleaching products as well as other body creams smuggled into Rwanda through porous borders.

At about 11 am on Thursday, October 22, Police officers raided the house where skin whitening lotions, soaps and oils that filled three pick-up vehicles, were recovered.
Three people including the owner of the store identified as Eric Mizero, one of his suppliers Lousie Sinumvayabo and another dealer called Jesca Kamaliza, were arrested in the process.

Mizero was also arrested red-handed handing over Frw850,000, which is part of Frw1 million bribe he had promised Police officers so as to prevent his arrest and seizure of his illegal goods.

The seized banned products were in various brands including Diana, White Max, Peau Jaune, Diproson and Naomi.

Others include Carolight, Faiza Beauty cream, Epiderm cream, Extra Claire and Coco pulp.

Mizero explained that his suppliers bring the products clandestinely in small quantities to prevent being detected.

One of the suspects, Sinumvayabo had at the time brought new consignments of skin whitening products.

Mizero and Kamaliza also have shops in Biryogo, Nyamirambo which deal in skin bleaching products.

RNP spokesperson, CP John Bosco Kabera said that these are acts of fraud, trafficking of banned and dangerous products, illegal cross-border during the process of smuggling or trafficking, and bribery, all which are punishable by law.

"This is what we normally say; besides evading taxes, smuggling also brings into market outlawed and harmful products like these lotions, which were identified as dangerous to human skin and health in general, and ultimately banned in Rwanda," CP Kabera said.

The seized whitening products are among the 1,342 listed cream and oil brands with hydroquinone and mercury, which are prohibited in Rwanda.

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.

Mercury and hydroquinone 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 marks.

"We have been carrying out awareness against sell and use of banned creams and oils with mercury and hydroquinone, but also against bribery and corruption in general. Those, who have kept deaf ears like these three people, will face the law.
We thank people, who continue to share information on such unlawful acts and call for enhanced spirit of community policing against these illegal practices," CP Kabera said.

Seized outlawed products are normally disposed of.

However, under the East African Community Management Act, which is applicable in Rwanda, seized smuggled goods under article 199, are auctioned.

According to article 4 of the Law on Fighting Against Corruption, any person who offers, solicits, accepts or receives, by any means, an illegal benefit for himself/herself or another person in order to render or omit a service under his or her mandate, commits an offense.

Upon conviction, the offender is liable to imprisonment for a term of between five years and seven years, with a fine of three to five times the value of the illegal benefit solicited or received.