Counterfeiters try to cash in as World Cup nears

Hong Kong customs have seized over 100,000 suspected counterfeit football shirts with an estimated market value of about HK$50m ($8.8m) in the days building up to the 2022 World Cup, which gets underway in Qatar this weekend.

The territory's Customs and Excise Department have also arrested 15 suspects during an operation to crack down on fake merchandise, carried out between October 31 and November 10, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.

The suspects are linked to "control points, local logistics companies and an online store," according to the article, which says fakes of most of the top teams in the tournament were intercepted.

"The jerseys were the latest versions for the national teams, packaged in bags with authentic-looking trademarks," it says.

Meanwhile, around £500,000 ($595,000) in knock-off football shirts were seized in the UK this week by officers with City of London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), along with representatives of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), after a series of raids across the country.

Four tonnes of the fake shirts – mainly for the England team – were seized in raids that were conducted in Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol, and Northampton, along with Fifa World Cup Badges and thousands of pounds in cash.

"We regularly see links between the counterfeit goods trade and organised criminal groups. Counterfeiting is one of the primary methods used by these groups to make money, and enables them to fund serious offences such as drugs trafficking and money laundering," said PIPCU's Detective Sergeant Matthew Hussey.

"We would always urge fans to think twice before buying fake merchandise, and will continue to work with our partners to take action against those who sell it."

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