UK authorities smash massive fake goods network

Enforcement agencies in the UK have taken down a huge criminal counterfeit goods operation estimated to have raked in “up to £65m” ($78m) a year from the sale of knock-offs across the country.

The investigations, initiated by Rochdale Trading Standards and supported by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), identified a trader who is accused of being at the heart of the distribution network.

Last month, Rochdale council carried out inspections across the borough and a number of seizures of illegal tobacco, cigarettes and vapes were removed from a number of shops. While the team were in Heywood, they noticed two men acting suspiciously as they loaded items into a storage container.

The pair were questioned and found to be connected to a further 10 containers, rented at sites across the borough of Rochdale. During searches, all of the containers were found to be holding high-value counterfeit items, which included clothing, shoes, handbags, jewellery, perfumes, watches and cosmetic fillers.

Over two days, approximately 60,000 items were seized, with a retail value estimated at £9m.

That prompted  an investigation into the local trader, who was found to have been sending 300 to 500 parcels per day through a courier network from an unknown premises in the Manchester area. Working with the courier, the council intercepted some of the parcels and all items were later confirmed to be counterfeit by trademark representatives that manufacture the legitimate goods.

The sheer scale and size of the counterfeit operation quickly became apparent when a further 11 pallets were intercepted in just one evening. It was later discovered that shipments of 11 containers had been going out six days a week for a significant period of time. The street value of these counterfeit items was calculated to be over £1m per week.

It was subsequently discovered the parcels were being shipped to eight industrial units containing more counterfeit items, with some operating as a badging factory and distribution hubs, and the total value of seized items has been estimated £15m.

“Our trading standards team need to be highly commended for their tremendous efforts,” said Councillor Neil Emmott, leader of Rochdale Borough Council.

“What people may not realise is that apart from often being dangerous and always inferior, these goods are funding organised crime,” he added.

“These traders do not pay taxes, maybe illegally claiming benefits and put genuine local traders who abide by the rules, out of business. You may think you have bagged a bargain, but by funding organised crime you have assisted crime gangs who are responsible for forced labour, drugs, human trafficking, prostitution and child labour.”

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