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A storage facility in Strangeways, Manchester, was raided by officers this week, in the UK’s biggest ever police operation aimed at cracking down on the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods. Officers raided 55 units within the storage facility, all full of fake goods.
The huge operation led by the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, working with the City of London Polices’ Intellectual Crime Property Unit, Trading Standards, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement, with logistical support from Lighthouse Security, uncovered an estimated £500 million worth of branded goods. Two counterfeit perfume factories, and manufacturing equipment, was also found in a number of lock ups inside the storage unit. All equipment was seized. Chemicals, including white spirit and screen wash, were also found in the unit used to manufacture fake perfume.
In total over 200 tonnes of goods were seized. If genuine and sold at retail price, this equates to an estimated loss to brands of over £500 million.
Police Constable Anthony Cregan, from the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, who is leading the investigation, said:
“This operation will have severely disrupted organised crime groups linked to counterfeit goods. We believe the hundreds of tonnes of goods seized would have supplied gangs in Cheetham Hill selling counterfeit goods. This funds an assortment of serious organised crime, which we are determined to combat.
“This enforcement activity and large-scale seizures should send a strong message to all criminals involved in counterfeit goods that this won’t be tolerated, and we are constantly working towards our next operation.
“It is important to recognise the serious impact of sophisticated and large-scale counterfeit operations such as this. I would like to take this opportunity to remind members of the public of the serious repercussions of this kind of offending, and the link to organised criminal activity. Please be under no illusion - this type of crime is not victimless.
“This operation showed the effectiveness of partnership working, and I thank all our partners involved for their help.”
The joint action saw two people arrested and multiple links found to two of the biggest organised crime groups in Cheetham Hill. The search warrants, which developed from a covert operation and intelligence from Border Force, saw over 60 officers and staff working together.
The investigation is ongoing, but officers have so far seized suspected counterfeit shoes, clothing, handbags, watches, makeup, perfume, sunglasses, batteries and headphones. Fake brand labels have also been seized. These are often imported separately to be sewn onto counterfeit clothing and shoes.
Mobile phones, laptops and a large amount of cash have also been seized.
Superintendent Paul Denn of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, said:
“This week our officers have been part of the UK’s biggest ever counterfeit operation – seizing more than £500 million worth of goods together with our partners from the City of London Police, Greater Manchester Police and Trading Standards.
“This is a huge success in our mission to combat the counterfeit goods trade in Cheetham Hill. Whenever we receive intelligence about illegal goods, we work closely with our colleagues at the City of London Police and other partners to investigate and take appropriate action. This week’s activity should send a clear message that we will stop at nothing to tackle this issue and it’s a priority we will continue to crack down on.
“The counterfeit goods trade isn’t a victimless crime. Often criminals use the profits to fund other organised crime, and with that often comes violence, which can have devastating effects on the local community.”
Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, Executive Member for Neighbourhoods for Manchester City Council, said:
"The counterfeit goods industry is not just a business of selling the odd knock-off bag, or a fake Gucci bag. It is the enterprise of organised criminal gangs who have ties to the drug trade, human trafficking, and a string of other serious crimes. As a Council, working with our partners, we are determined to stamp out counterfeit operations in North Manchester.
"We want to make our neighbourhoods safe and prosperous for all residents and as this week's Operation Genoa has shown, we are serious in achieving this goal."