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Other press releases

Store manager of a counterfeit shop in Cheetham Hill sentenced

10 May 2021

The store manager of a shop in Cheetham Hill Manchester, who imported counterfeit goods and distributed them internationally, has been sentenced.

On Monday 10 May 2021, Husamaclin Karimi,  28, of Birkdale Street, Manchester, was sentenced at Tameside Magistrates' Court to four months imprisonment, suspended for two years; four month curfew from 19:00 to 07:00; and to the forfeiture and destruction order in respect of all counterfeit items seized.

Officers from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) seized £96,959 worth of counterfeit goods from Karimi’s shop during a warrant on 16 October 2019.

 Fifty three different brands, including Louis Vuitton and Gucci, were found in the three story shop, including thousands of branded labels imported separately to be sown onto counterfeit clothing, handbags and shoes. 

 Detective Constable, Daryl Fryatt, who led the investigation said:

 “Selling counterfeit goods is illegal. This sentencing will have caused serious impact to the Cheetham Hill area that is known for selling and importing counterfeit goods. This has hopefully sent a strong message to other criminals involved in counterfeit goods that it won’t be tolerated and you will be brought to justice.

“For the public it is vital to remember you don’t know what other crimes you are funding when buying counterfeit goods, or the conditions those working for the criminals are working in.” 

 When executing the warrant of the property, officers were invited in by Karimi, who took them to into the rear rooms of the premises through a locked door. Karimi started telling officers that they could purchase items from between £20-£50, before realising that the officers were not customers.

Karimi was arrested and during interview admitted to being the store manager and selling counterfeit goods, which he knew was illegal. Karimi’s phones were also seized and examined with hundreds of images of counterfeit goods located.

 

Police seize counterfeit car parts including break paddles and key fobs worth £22,681

Friday 7 May 2021

This week officers from London’s Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit seized various counterfeit car parts, including brake pads and key fobs, during a warrant in Buckinghamshire.

The investigation began looking into the sale of counterfeit Ford products, mainly made for transit vans. The goods were being sold on two of the biggest online market places and available to buy worldwide.

In a report from Ford, it was confirmed that the car parts had not been produced to any safety standard and could potentially cause serious injuries.

On Tuesday 04 May 2021, officers from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit attended the residential address of a 42 year old man in the Milton Keynes, area. While searching the address, officers uncovered counterfeit car parts that police believe were going to be advertised as real and sold online.  These included key fobs, exhaust temperature sensors, break pad covers, transit door logos, brake pedal covers and fuel filters.

The 42 year old man, who police believe is the company director, was arrested and cautioned at Milton Keynes Central Police Station while investigations continue.

Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt, from the City of London Police, who led the investigation said:

"This operation is an excellent example of PIPCU working collaboratively with the motor industry to tackle the sale of counterfeit goods.

"Not only could these parts pose a potential safety risk to those who have them fitted to their cars, they also undermine the legitimacy of the motor industry.

"We strive to identify and disrupt those who are intent on making money out of counterfeit goods, working closely with our partners to identify and take action against those who commit these crimes."

Jess Owens, Ford’s European brand protection manager, said:

“Ford operates a global team of experts in the fight against counterfeit goods, that not only impact heavily on the sale of genuine goods but also on jobs and customer satisfaction. The safety aspects of untested unapproved parts bearing a Ford trademark or sold as genuine parts when they are not may put the consumer at a level of unnecessary risk. Ford will continue to support the Police and other authorities in the battle against counterfeit parts.”

 

Police seize over 25,000 counterfeit face masks a week before World Intellectual Property Day

Monday 26 April 2021

Last week officers from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit seized 25,000 counterfeit face masks in Scotland.

The investigation began after Border Force received intelligence that counterfeit face masks were coming into the United Kingdom from Hong Kong. Two large consignments of masks were found at East Midlands Airport and Stanford Le-Hope, heading to an address in Aberdeen, Scotland.

On Thursday 14 April 2021, officers from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit, the new North West Intellectual Property Crime Unit, and Police Scotland, attended the residential address of a 22 year old man and a storage unit in the Dyce area, and uncovered 25,000 counterfeit face masks that police believe were going to be advertised as medical grade and sold online.

A man was interviewed under caution and has been released under investigation.

Detective Sergeant Ceri Hunt, from the City of London Police, who lead the investigation said:
“Selling a fake face mask under the pretence it will keep the user safe and help stop the spread of coronavirus during a global public health crisis, shows the total disregard fraudsters have for people’s lives.

“The swift, joined-up action taken by police, Border Force and our partners across the globe, shows there are no boundaries to our work in fighting intellectual property crime and protecting the public.”

Detective Superintendent Paul Denn from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said:
“We’re really pleased with the results last week and glad that our action has helped to put a stop to these ruthless criminals who were trying to a make profit from selling counterfeit medical masks during a global pandemic. Not only is it damaging to the economy but it would have been extremely dangerous if these substandard goods had of made it out for public consumption.

Chris Mills, Director of Copyright and IP Enforcement for the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) said:
“The UK is recognised for having one of the best IP enforcement regimes in the world, testament to the close working relationship between all of our enforcement partners.

“Congratulations to all the agencies involved for the collaboration and swift action that led to this outstanding result.”

 

Huge three day police operation in Cheetham Hill saw £15m worth of counterfeit goods seized and seven arrests

23 April 2021 

Four raids, led by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and Greater Manchester Police, have uncovered an estimated £15 million worth of branded clothing, shoes, electricals, watches, jewellery, and perfume suspected to be counterfeit. Suspected counterfeit medication was also found and seized.

In total over 45,000 items were seized, with an estimated loss to brands of £15 million, if sold at retail price.

The joint action between the three forces, Border Force and Immigration Services, also saw seven people arrested - six for offences relating to the importation and distribution of counterfeit goods and one for intent to supply prescription drugs.

Four premises in Strangeways, Manchester, were raided by officers between Monday 19 and Wednesday 21 April 2021, in a large scale operation aimed at cracking down on the sale of counterfeit goods. The search warrants, which developed from a previous operation that involved the sale and distribution of counterfeit items, saw 60 officers and staff working together.

The investigation is still ongoing, but officers have so far seized suspected counterfeit shoes, clothing, handbags, watches, makeup, perfume, sunglasses, batteries, headphones and medication. Fake brand labels have also been seized. These are often imported separately to be sewn onto counterfeit clothing and shoes.

Mobile phones and cash has also been seized from those arrested.

Superintendent Peter Ratcliffe, of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said:

“Selling counterfeit goods is illegal and, in the case of counterfeit electricals and medication, extremely dangerous.

“This huge three day operation, plus the number of arrests and vast amount of evidence seized, should send a strong message to other criminals involved in counterfeit goods that it won’t be tolerated.

“For the public, it is vital to remember you don’t know what other crimes you are funding when buying counterfeit goods, or the conditions those working for the criminals are conducting their business in.

“This operation showed the effectiveness of partnership working and I thank Greater Manchester Police, and our other partners involved, for all their help.”

Detective Superintendent Paul Denn from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said:

“Buying and selling counterfeit goods is not a victimless crime. As well as damaging legitimate businesses, it helps to fund organised crime, and with that often comes violence.

“Whenever we receive intelligence about illegal goods, we will always work closely with our colleagues in the City of London Police and other partners to investigate and take the appropriate action.”

Inspector Helen Hallworth, of Greater Manchester Police’s City of Manchester division, said:

"Working in partnerships such as this is instrumental when tackling counterfeit operations, as each unit is able to bring its own precise specialisms to help achieve the most effective policing operation. City of London is the national policing lead for fraud and we welcome their involvement along with that from our other partners from the NW PIPCU unit as well as Immigration and Border Force when tackling counterfeit operations within the Greater Manchester area.

"Please be under no false illusions that the selling of counterfeit goods is a victimless crime. Selling counterfeit goods is illegal and the money made in these shops helps to fund organised crime, lining the pockets of criminals for much more sinister crimes which can have a devastating impact on our communities.

"Finally, be aware that counterfeit goods can pose a serious health risk to individuals as they have not undergone the health and safety checks that are mandatory for mainstream goods.”

 

 

City Of London Police launch new Intellectual Property Unit in the North West

04 March 2021

 A new unit set up to tackle intellectual property fraud in the north west has already seized £1.7m worth of fake goods, including clothes, electricals and fireworks.

The City of London Police, the lead force for fraud, has partnered with the Intellectual Property Office and the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit to set up the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit.  This is an extension of its intellectual property capability, based in the City, which is focussed on intellectual property crime, ranging from copyright offences to fake goods. 

The unit will combat intellectual property crime in the north west of England and will support existing partners to disrupt and prosecute existing and new offenders.

On Thursday 4 March 2021, officers executed five warrants for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) offences, which resulted in two arrests, the seizure of electrical items, cash and counterfeit goods.

Superintendent Pete Ratcliffe, City of London Police, said:

“The world of intellectual property crime is constantly evolving and the formation of the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit clearly demonstrates that police, Government and industry are committed to protecting the UK from both established and emerging threats, many of which are now operating from online platforms.

“Intellectual property crime costs our economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year and threatens thousands of jobs. The unit has ongoing investigations with an estimated potential loss to industry of £2.3m.

“Through launching the NWPIPCU, we are sending out a clear warning to organised crime groups that IP crime won’t be tolerated.

Superintendent, Paul Denn of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said:

“We’re delighted to launch an Intellectual Police Property Crime Unit here in the North West today, thanks to our partners in the City of London Police. Partnerships such as these are vital when tackling counterfeit operations as they bring specialisms together from across the country to make a real difference.

“Today’s activities are just the start of a series of operations we will be undertaking to investigate the scale of the problem here in the North West.  

“I’d like to remind members of the public that although ‘fake goods’ may seem like an innocent way to bag a bargain, the counterfeit goods business is not a victimless crime. When people buy these goods, they’re helping to fund serious and organised crime, which in turn can lead to more drugs, guns and violence on our streets – not to mention leaving genuine businesses out of pocket.”

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) based in London was set up in2013 to protect UK industries which produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content. The operationally independent unit is funded by the Intellectual Property Office, which is part of the Department for Business Innovation. The unit works with a wide range of national and international partners from public authorities and private industry to build a comprehensive UK policing response to the threat of online intellectual property crime. 

The North West unit will also be focused on influencing online behaviour by site owners, service providers and consumers through education, prevention and enforcement activity, and providing offenders where appropriate with opportunities to accept restorative justice.

IPO CEO, Tim Moss said:

“We are delighted to be further strengthening our partnership with City of London Police and building a new one with North West Regional Organised Crime Unit. Effective collaboration is vital for success in combatting IP crime. We are excited about the vital role the new IP crime hub will play in supporting the already impressive capability of this partnership, helping to reduce counterfeit goods and copyright offences in the north west”

 

 

WARNING: Police launch investigation into counterfeit baby carriers

25 February 2021

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit have launched an investigation into counterfeit baby carriers being sold on eBay. 

Officers have identified, and contacted, a number of customers who have already purchased fake Ergobaby Omni 360 baby carriers, but are encouraging anyone else who may have unwittingly bought one of these counterfeit items to get in touch.

T/Detective Inspector Kevin Ives, from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said:

“If you have purchased an Ergobaby carrier online, but not via the company’s official website, you could be using a fake.

“A counterfeit item such as this could cause harm to you and your baby and it’s important you stop using it immediately.

“If you think you’ve purchased one of these items, please call 101 and ask to be put through to the City of London Police.”

An Ergobaby spokesperson said:

“We greatly appreciate the City of London Police’s assistance in stopping counterfeit Ergobaby carriers being sold. We know parents and carers want the best and safest products for their children, but counterfeit products can be dangerous and may cause harm as they are not verified by us, and therefore we cannot be sure that they adhere to our rigorous standards of quality and care. We use high quality, certified materials that are produced in independently inspected facilities which adhere to responsible work practices.

“Because of our uncompromised premium quality and construction, genuine Ergobaby carriers come with the ErgoPromise Guarantee, a 10-year warranty on any manufacturing or material defects, to ensure parents’ peace of mind that their carrier is built to last. This dedication to excellence has led to our carriers winning numerous international product awards and health endorsements, only serving to make it more damaging when counterfeits try to deceive parents into believing their fake products are genuine Ergobaby products.  

“We do our utmost to make sure parents are aware of the pitfalls of purchasing counterfeits and remind them that the safest way to ensure they are buying authentic products is by visiting our website and buying there, or through our authorised retailers. If anyone has any concerns that their product is not genuine then they can get in touch with us via our customer support team at customersupport@ergobaby.co.uk.”

Further information can be found at: https://ergobaby.com/counterfeits

 

Members of an organised crime group importing and selling counterfeit goods worldwide are sentenced

10 February 2021

The three leaders of an organised crime group, who worked together to import counterfeit trainers and distribute them internationally, have been sentenced.

On Tuesday 09 February 2021, Xiaoguang Xia, 37 of Kempsters Gardens, Salford, M7, Jian Lin, 38, of Kempsters Gardens, Salford, M7 and Yingpen Qu, 40, of Larch Gardens, Manchester, M8 were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court.

Xia was sentenced to two years imprisonment, Lin to eight months imprisonment, suspended for two years and Qu to 12 months community order and 50 hours unpaid work.

Officers from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) seized 280,000 pairs of counterfeit shoes, computer equipment and approximately £20,000 in cash at the warehouse and high street store owned by Xia. Thousands of branded labels imported separately to be sown onto counterfeit clothing and shoes were also seized.

Detective Constable, Daryl Fryatt, who led the investigation said:

“Selling counterfeit goods is illegal. These arrests have caused major disruption to an organised crime gang which has been involved in intellectual property crime worldwide, for years. This has hopefully sent a strong message to other criminals involved in counterfeit goods that it won’t be tolerated and you will be brought to justice.

“For the public it is vital to remember you don’t know what other crimes you are funding when buying counterfeit goods, or the conditions those working for the criminals are working in.

“This operation showed the effectiveness of partnership working and I thank each organisation involved for their help in shutting down this organised crime group”.

The investigation began with a referral from the Intellectual Property Office and Trading Standards and led to three warrants being executed by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) with help from Greater Manchester Police, Border Force, Trading Standards, Manchester Fire Service and UK Immigration Services.  Fake goods belonging to the group had been seized at various markets and through various sellers since 2015 and were all linked the warehouse and high street store raided by PIPCU.

Financial investigations revealed that the business account owned by Zia and Qu received payments between May 2016 and January 2019, to the value £2.3 million. The bank account regularly sent payments of £10,000 to a bank account in China, with the reference ‘gifts for children’. 

 

Real gifts for real love: PIPCU urges shoppers to avoid the fakes this Valentines

8 February 2021

 Officers from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) are warning Valentines shoppers to avoid counterfeit products and to not shop on fake online sites, after taking down 500 fake websites already, so far this year.

Laboratory tests have shown common Valentines gifts such as counterfeit perfume, often contain poisonous chemicals, including cyanide and even human urine. Fake cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss and foundation have been found to contain toxic levels of chemicals and harmful substances such as arsenic, mercury and lead. All of these can cause allergic reactions, such as skin irritation, swelling, rashes and burns, as well as leaving the consumer with longer-term health problems.

Counterfeit make-up is often produced in insanitary and unhygienic factories and there have been cases where rats’ droppings and poison have also been found in the phoney cosmetics.

With Valentine's gifts being purchased online this year, officers are warning the public about the consequences of providing personal details to non-reputable sellers. Criminals often use people’s personal details to commit fraud, such as registering other counterfeit websites in their name and stealing personal and financial details.

Temporary Detective Inspector, Kevin Ives of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit said: 

“Valentine’s Day is a counterfeiter’s dream. With jewellery and perfume being popular gift choices, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a cheap offer.

“Fake makeup and perfume can contain harmful chemicals and even rat droppings that cause swelling, rashes and burns. Purchasing counterfeit goods online often results in your personal details being used to set up new fraudulent websites.

“Treat your Valentine to something legitimate from a reputable seller. Avoid heart break, don’t buy fake.” #Don’tFakeMyHeart

PIPCU also works closely with manufacturers, brand guardians, partner agencies and governmental departments to identify counterfeit websites. Action is then taken to suspend the sites by working closely with Nominet, the UK’s central registry for all .uk domains, once it is established that the websites are in breach of the Copyright and Trademarks Act.

 

Europol predictions correct for fake COVID-19 vaccines
10 December 2020

Increased vigilance for criminal fraudulent activity is advised to all Member States

While Europe is hit by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, testing is ongoing for potential new vaccines to treat the virus. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has announced that it will conclude evaluation of the first conditional marketing authorisation application for a COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year. Several EU Member States have already published their vaccination plans. Europol urges increased vigilance among Member States and third-party countries on the possible involvement of criminals in the vaccine development and distribution process.

Europol has published an early warning notification on Vaccine-related crime during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Confirmed crime projections of counterfeit vaccines
In April this year, Europol announced the potential harm of offline and online scams offering alleged versions of the COVID-19 vaccine. Projections were also made in relation to the announcement of a genuine vaccine and the reaction of organised crime to adapt its methods to meet demand.

These projections were later confirmed in Europol’s November report, where it was identified that the distribution of substandard and counterfeit pharmaceutical products, including preventative COVID-19 vaccines had remained a consistent pandemic-related criminal activity.

Counterfeit vaccines may pose a significant risk to public health
Owing to the pandemic, the demand for influenza treatments has been higher than usual and there are risks of shortages in numerous countries. This high demand may encourage people to seek the vaccine elsewhere. For this reason, once the legitimate vaccine enters the market, counterfeit versions of the brand are expected to circulate rapidly to meet the high demand.

It is feared that criminals will share disinformation to defraud individuals and companies alike. There have already been cases of advertisements on dark web marketplaces using the brands of genuine pharmaceutical companies that are already in the final stages of testing.

These counterfeit vaccines may pose a significant risk to public health if they are ineffective or toxic, given their production in labs without the required hygiene standards. These fake vaccines may circulate on illicit markets or be introduced to the legal market for distribution.

Europol actively encourages Member States to share any relevant information on criminal activities related to COVID-19 or flu vaccines.

 

Police warn of the dangers of counterfeit fireworks ahead of bonfire night
4 November 2020

  • PIPCU warn people not to buy counterfeit fireworks this bonfire night 
  • Counterfeit fireworks are extremely dangerous and can cause life threatening injuries 
  • Shoppers are also at risk of identity theft from fraudsters who sell the fireworks 

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is urging people to buy their bonfire night fireworks from legitimate sellers.

With organised firework displays cancelled this year due to Covid-19, the City of London Police and the British Fireworks Association are asking the public to think twice about where they buy their fireworks from, and to consider celebrating in a different way that poses less risk.

Last week, officers from PIPCU stopped a van driving around different areas of the North West selling counterfeit fireworks. The van was seized as well as £4,000 worth of fake fireworks.

Peter Ratcliffe, Head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said:

“As public firework displays aren’t taking place this year and many still want to celebrate, we urge you to buy from legitimate firework sellers, and make sure you have checked all the safety advice and Covid-19 guidelinesbefore having a home fireworks display.

“A home firework display can impact significantly on your safety, your community, your neighbours, animals and the environment. The dangers of buying fake fireworks cannot be underestimated, with potentially devastating consequences for public safety. It is vital that consumers are extra careful and double check where they buy their fireworks from.

“Remember that fireworks are explosives, and as such should be treated with respect and only used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and the Firework Code.”

Legitimate fireworks pose a serious risk to the public if not used correctly, and counterfeit fireworks are even worse. They won’t have been through the same rigorous testing as genuine fireworks, the chemicals within them could be harmful, the packaging may not meet safety standards, and the instructions will not have been tested.

PIPCU is also warning the public that there are many risks when buying counterfeit fireworks on marketplaces, websites and social media. When buying items online, people will part with personal details including banking details, which allow fraudsters to set up new websites selling counterfeit products in the victim’s name.

Steve Raper, Chairman of the British Firework Association said:

“The BFA advice is only buy from shops which you recognise or feel will still be around after Bonfire night - and never from the back of vans. Only use web sites belonging to firework companies and avoid buying via social media. Always read the instructions printed on every firework - if they are not clear or not in English they may be illegal’.

 

Trick or treat: PIPCU warns of fake fancy dress dangers ahead of Halloween 
28 October 2020

  • PIPCU warns people not to be tricked into buying fake fancy dress costumes
  • Counterfeit costumes pose risks of suffocation, poisoning and strangulation
  • Shoppers are also at risk of identity theft from fraudsters who sell the costumes

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is urging people to buy their Halloween fancy dress outfits from legitimate sellers.

Counterfeit costumes pose risks of suffocation, poisoning from untested dyes and strangulation from unsuitable fastenings. The outfits are not tested or subjected to the same rigorous testing as genuine items and therefore pose a public safety risk to consumers. The packaging of the clothing also does not meet safety standards.

PIPCU is also warning the public that there are many risks when buying counterfeit Halloween costumes on marketplaces, websites and social media. When buying items online, people will part with personal details including banking details, which allow fraudsters to set up new websites selling counterfeit products in the victim’s name.

Don’t get cursed this Halloween

PIPCU is issuing the following consumer advice and tips for safe online shopping this Halloween:

  • Trust your instincts – if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Legitimate items are rarely discounted, so do not rush and be fooled into believing you are getting a good deal.
  • Check the spelling and grammar on the website and of the URL as often the people behind these sites will try to deceive you by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.
  • Look to see where the trader is based and whether they provide a postal address – just because the web address has ‘uk’ do not assume the seller is based in the UK. If there is no address supplied or there is just a PO Box or email, be wary.
  • Only deal with reputable sellers and only use sites you know, or ones that have been recommended to you. If you have not bought from the seller before, do your research and check online reviews. People will often turn to forums and blogs to warn others of fake sites.
  • Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment.
  • Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date.
  • Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee. Most rogue traders will not offer this.
  • Watch out for pop-ups appearing asking you to confirm your card details before you are on the payment stage. Never enter your PIN online.
  • Report to Action Fraud online at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. If you live in Scotland, please report directly to Police Scotland by calling 101.

Temporary Detective Inspector Kev Ives, of the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, said:

“Enjoying Halloween safely should be a guarantee, not a treat. Purchasing costumes from a reputable seller will ensure you are not tricked into buying unsafe products.

“The dangers of buying fake fancy dress costumes cannot be underestimated, with potentially devastating consequences for public safety. With the popularity of fancy dress costumes at this time of year it’s vital that consumers are extra careful and check where they are buying them from.

“Counterfeit costumes are untested, meaning they put people at risk of suffocation and strangulation. Make sure your Halloween is scary for the right reasons!”

Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and Enforcement at the IPO said:

“In spite of restrictions on Halloween this year, it can still be a fun time for families. Along with our partners in the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), we want to make sure it stays that way. 

“We echo PIPCU’s advice, and would urge the public to think twice before buying fake fancy dress costumes - the dangers are alarming, with potentially shocking implications to public safety.”

 

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.

The operationally independent unit was launched in September 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The unit is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, which is the National Policing Lead for Fraud.

 

Operation BIG BEN: Thousands of goods seized during raid on open-air market
12 October 2020
 
On Saturday 3rd October 2020 a multi-agency raid action led by Hertfordshire Trading Standards in collaboration with the National Markets Group for IP Protection (NMG), Hertfordshire Constabulary, the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) and brand holder representatives saw thousands of counterfeit goods seized from Bovingdon Market, Hemel Hempstead.

Established in 2008, the NMG is made up of a partnership of law enforcement, government and industry stakeholders and its OP BIG BEN initiative was created to support market operators who face issues with the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods at their markets.

Bovingdon Market, which sits on the site of the disused Bovingdon Airfield is well known for its offering of counterfeit and pirated goods, with counterfeiters from across the UK travelling there each Saturday and Bank Holiday Monday to ply their illicit trade.

Whilst many consumers are aware of what they are buying, others are duped into believing that they are buying genuine product whilst legitimate businesses, already impacted by reduced sales due to COVID-19 are unable to compete with the low prices charged by the counterfeiters.

The action on Saturday 3rd October 2020 saw 10 stalls raided and thousands of counterfeit and potentially unsafe products seized including clothing, footwear, electrical, perfume, handbags, belts, purses, and badges used for manufacture with a retail value in excess of £200,000. Monies from the sale of such goods often fund other organised crimes such as modern-day slavery, drug supply and money laundering and as shown in the recent UK IP Crime report , this insidious crime robs the state of much needed revenue to fund public services such as the NHS.

Graham Mogg, ACG’s Intelligence Coordinator and Chair of the NMG, who took part in the action said: "Counterfeit products are not only bad news for consumers, but also for legitimate, hard-working local business owners who risk losing sales".

"The NMG is all about taking a collaborative approach to tackle counterfeiting and piracy and we are very grateful for the support that we have received from our partners at Hertfordshire Trading Standards, Hertfordshire Police and all of the rights owners and their representatives who took part in this action.

"We look forward to working alongside the market operator at Bovingdon to ensure that the market offers a fair and equitable trading environment for traders and consumers alike".
 
ENDS
 
 
Launch of TRACIT report on Fraudulent On-line Advertising
22 July 2020

Today, a long standing partner of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT), in collaboration with the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), issued a report detailing the growing incidence of fraudulent advertising and counterfeits on popular social networking platforms like Facebook and Instagram and websites like YouTube and Google.

The report shows that seventy major international brands have been targeted by fraudulent advertisements on social platforms, some of which receive up to a quarter of a million views before they are detected.

“It’s alarming that people are exposed to fraudulent advertisements for counterfeits while they’re thumbing through their social media accounts,” said TRACIT Director General Jeffrey Hardy. “The ads are so professional that they easily deceive consumers into thinking they’re getting a great deal. Instead, they’re being diverted to a rogue website that was built specifically to sell and distribute counterfeits – and they’re just not expecting that.”

The report investigates and points out that Internet-based platforms for social networking and shopping from home have inherent systemic weaknesses that are exploited by criminals to sell any variety of counterfeit or illegal product with little risk of apprehension. The lack of sufficient policies and procedures to verify an advertiser’s true identity and limited vetting during the onboarding process are identified as the main vulnerabilities that enable fraudulent advertising online.

“Consumers risk having their payment details stolen, not receiving goods, or buying poor quality or even dangerous products,” said Mr. Hardy. “Counterfeiters are notoriously linked to serious organized crime, spending their profits on illicit drugs, money laundering and corruption, depriving governments, businesses and societies of hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes, sales and jobs.”

TRACIT and AAFA advocate for governments and social platforms to work with brands and law enforcement to do more to protect consumers. The report includes recommendations for websites and social media platforms to gather and verify information on who is utilizing their advertising services, which would improve their ability to proactively identify bad actors and repeat infringers from previously removed accounts. The report also calls for a more rigorous review of an advertisement prior to publication, both algorithmically but also manually where high risk has been flagged.

“The social networking platforms are some of the most popular and most valuable brands in the world,” said Mr. Hardy. “It’s absolutely inconsistent with today’s standards of corporate social responsibility to expose users to such easy forms of fraud. Chasing fraud once it’s loose on the Internet is not effective and leaving legitimate companies to clean up the mess is unfair and unreasonable.”

Additionally, the report suggests the establishment of an e-business license for advertisers, which would require verification of (i) financial disclosures that can be corroborated by third parties (e.g., bank statements), and (ii) physical location information that can be supported by government records or trusted third parties. Such a system could be accompanied by a central registry ideally, managed by a highly secure, disinterested party to maintain the licenses.

“Licenses are required for virtually every aspect of commercial activity in the physical world, so why not for online advertising?” asked Mr. Hardy. “Advertising has long been regulated by governments to ensure that messages are truthful and do not mislead reasonable consumers and I think it’s the responsibility of today’s legislators to make sure these standards apply to our lives online.”

TRACIT and AAFA’s report is available at: www.tracit.org/publications 
 
 
 
TRACIT issues Market Alert on the increase of illicit alcohol in Colombia as consequence of the Covid-19 dry laws
New York, 19 June 2020
 
TRACIT calls on Colombian government to repeal measures restricting the legal alcohol market
The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) issued a statement today, flagging the negative effects of the Colombian Government’s Decree banning the consumption of alcoholic beverages in public places. The organization, known for mitigating illicit trade across industry sectors worldwide, cautions that the negative effects of COVID-19 related dry laws create markets for illicit trade and have significant negative impacts on public health and excise tax revenues.

In its statement, TRACIT reports that the artificial shortage in legitimate product supply caused by the government-imposed dry laws, combined with an alarming rise in the use of e-commerce and other online platforms to commercialize illicit alcohol, have driven the commercialization and distribution of illicit alcoholic beverages.

“Colombia’s dry laws promote the development of a parallel illicit market, represent immense tax loses and present significant risks to consumer health,” said TRACIT Director-General Jeffrey Hardy. “Prohibition measures are counterproductive to our efforts to hold back illicit alcohol and are the last thing we need during the crisis, when health care systems are under strain, businesses are struggling to stay above water and unemployment is swelling.”

The TRACIT statement points out that COVID-19 related alcohol prohibitions have been rare, and in the most cases they were swiftly repealed in the face of rapidly growing markets for illicit trade, toxic alcohol poisoning and tax losses.

“We’ve already witnessed more than 100 deaths in Mexico related to prohibition upsurges in toxic, illicit alcohol, and the Indian government has pulled back prohibitions in response to the rapid decline in tax revenues exactly at a time when public resources are needed most,” said Hardy.

TRACIT called for immediate action by the Colombian Government to repeal all measures that ban or prohibit the consumption of legal alcoholic beverages and to ensure availability and access to legitimate products. It also called on Internet platforms to be more vigilant in preventing and removing offers for illicit alcohol products and to educate consumers that bad actors may exploit digital platforms for the sale of counterfeit, mislabeled and fraudulent products that could pose health risks.

“We do not agree that prohibition is an effective public health measure, because of the stimulus it gives to illicit trade and the negative impacts on consumer health. But we do look forward to working with Colombia over the long run to fight illicit trade in alcohol, including measures to control the production and distribution of alcohol not meant for human consumption.”
 
 
Greater Manchester Police: Reinforcing Covid-19 regulations across Strangeways
4 June 2020

Officers from GMP and partner agencies issue 28 prohibition notices

Greater Manchester Police, along with partner agencies, led in an approach to inform local businesses and counterfeit retailers of their responsibility to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the Strangeways area on Thursday 4 June.

A number of partner agencies joined together to help during the day, including the GMP Neighbourhood team, the Transport Unit, Manchester City Council’s Trading Standards team, TM Eye, parking enforcement, Environmental Health and the Challenger team.

The aim was to engage and explain the Covid-19 restrictions and promote the two-metre social distancing guidelines that are imperative to follow in order to reduce the spread of the virus.

Non-essential retail shops still need to work under the proviso of click and collect and customers are not allowed to enter the business premises. Cafes should also remain to offer food and drink as a takeaway option only.

Prior to the day a warning letter was issued to any premises that were continuing to allow customers to enter into a shop, as a reminder of the lockdown restrictions currently in place for retail premises.

On the day 28 buildings were served a Covid-19 Prohibition notice by Trading Standards. This notice prevents the retail unit from opening until lockdown restrictions have been lifted on non-essential shops reopening (15 June). If breached, the owner could face prosecution and an unlimited fine.

Superintendent Rebecca Boyce at Greater Manchester Police said: “Many businesses across Greater Manchester have been complying with government guidelines and legal requirements and we appreciate the ways in which people and business owners have adapted to these changes. However, there have been a small minority that have continued to remain open, which is risking the health of their staff and anyone that enters the premises.

“We understand the disruption these regulations have made to everyone’s lives, however they are in place to protect everyone and prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“The partner work of today is part of the Op Magpie approach, which aims to highlight intellectual property crime, counterfeiting and the associated crime and anti-social behaviour in the areas of Cheetham Hill and Strangeways.”

Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of upheaval in our day to day lives, but, as a Council we were here today to reassure residents that concerns about crime and public safety will not be ignored.

“Criminals need to know that we will not tolerate their illegal behaviour and equally, we will not stand idle as landlords do nothing to prevent criminality on their literal doorstep. Residents of Manchester are reminded that non-essential retail businesses remain closed to access and that by visiting counterfeit traders in this area they are putting their health at risk as well as funding organised crime”
 
 
 
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