Scotland organised crime crackdown warns of links with counterfeits

Almost £7m of fake cigarettes, clothing and cosmetics were seized and almost 3000 people arrested last year following a counterfeit and organised crime crackdown in Scotland.

A report from the Serious Organised Crime Task Force claimed there were 196 serious organised crime groups operating in Scotland, with 67 per cent operating in the west of Scotland, 22 per cent in the east and 11 per cent in the north. Two-thirds were involved in “seemingly legitimate businesses”, such as licensed premises, restaurants and taxi firms, and only 6 per cent of criminals were foreign nationals.

While two-thirds of the gangs were involved in illicit drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, the Task Force found a clear link between counterfeit goods and organised crime that was involved in drug and human trafficking, including child sexual exploitation.

Among the fake goods seized were counterfeit Calvin Klein pants, jewellery, DVDs, computer games, handbags, hoverboards and Glens vodka. The haul also featured a blue plastic bull, sent from Hong Kong, which had been found to contain 50g of fake tobacco pouches in its stomach.

With Christmas fast approaching, the Task Force wanted to emphasise the link between fake goods and serious organised crime.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said legislation was working to deter serious organised crime groups in Scotland but the public should think twice before purchasing counterfeit goods.

“The public should be aware that counterfeit goods are often the product of serious organised crime and that by buying such goods you could be funding groups who deal in drugs and human trafficking. And if you buy goods which you know to be stolen then you could also be prosecuted under the Proceeds of Crime Act,” he said.

Currently, research is being done looking into the availability of illicit and counterfeit goods on the internet, the report said.

Other serious organised crime types include violence, fraud, money laundering, organised immigration crime, organised theft, bogus workmen, and the emerging threat cybercrime. According to the report, 48 per cent of gangs are involved in multiple crime types.

In total, the Task Force took £9m off individuals and companies involved in criminal activity last year.

Police Scotland deputy chief constable Johnny Gwynne said the Task Force would continue to crackdown on serious organised crime. “Serious organised crime impacts on all our communities, does not respect boundaries or borders and constantly evolves to establish new ways of generating profits from illegal activity and all that comes with it including violence and intimidation.

“Criminals are increasingly using cyber-technology to carry out their trade and as a collective, the Task Force and Police Scotland are doing all we can to ensure there is no hiding place for them; serious organised crime groups will find Scotland an increasingly hostile environment for them to operate in… We will do all we can to put [them] out of business.”

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said a comprehensive approach to organised crime and emerging threats was key to tackling it. “We need to work collectively, in our communities to tackle the harm caused by serious organised crime, to stop the cycle of deprivation and, crucially, give those involved in these activities the chance to turn their lives around. With the right education we can prevent people from being recruited into a life of crime.”

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