Interpol-led blitz takes fight to counterfeiters

Interpol officers in actionOrganised crime networks involved in illicit trade and counterfeiting have been smashed and more than 6,000 people arrested after a series of Interpol-led operations around the world.

All told, 2m fake goods worth nearly $133m were seized during the operations throughout May and June, including "fake alcohol, counterfeit cooking oil and falsely-branded engines," according Michael Ellis, head of the agency's illicit goods and counterfeiting unit.

The operation was notable in that it included Asia for the first time, alongside raids and seizures in Africa, Europe and the Americas.

In southern China, a whole logistics chain behind the distribution of fake shampoo and toothpaste including 21 production sites, planes, containerised lorries, trains and websites operated by eight criminal syndicates was shut down, said Interpol.

Meanwhile in northern China, an organised crime network behind 10 illicit factories producing fake shavers was identified and dismantled, and nearly seven million counterfeits worth around $41m recovered.

A second organised crime network in China involved in the production of fake cooking oil in five different provinces was also broken up, leading to the arrest of 42 people and 56 sites shut down, while in Thailand more than 400 people were arrested in a crackdown street hawkers and retail shops selling counterfeit products including clothing, DVDs and electrical goods.

In Europe, more than 3,000 individuals were arrested in Turkey with enforcement agents seizing nearly 12m packets of illicit cigarettes, while $26m-worth of illicit goods were intercepted in Poland with nearly 200 people arrested or under investigation. Other important findings included a subterranean tobacco factory in Ukraine.

The African push also netted some major victories, including the seizure of 200,000 illicit or counterfeit items including clothing, perfume, alcohol, cigarettes, mobile telephones and toys worth more than $4m in Namibia.

A machine used to erase and change the expiration date on food containers, which "could lead unsuspecting members of the public to unknowingly consume potentially dangerous products, was also recovered," said Interpol.

Seizures in the Americas included a workshop in Lima, Peru, that was being used to put fake brands on illicit motors from China, the seizure of 94,000 counterfeit beers in Chile and the shutdown of two illegal distilleries in Colombia.

"With investigations now launched into possible money laundering and corruption cases, these operations have again underlined the wider issues connected to illicit trade and counterfeiting," said Ellis.

"They also serve as a reminder of what can be achieved when law enforcement agencies collaborate and present a united front against the criminal groups involved in illicit trade," he added.

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