Worldwide, authorities are acting against counterfeit medical products; European authorities are reporting successes too. In Poland, fake car parts were seized, and British authorities achieved netted fakes worth millions. Meanwhile, Switzerland sees a rapid increase in seizures.

Global actions against counterfeit corona medical goods
In a worldwide operation in early March, Interpol, Europol, and authorities from 90 countries have seized e.g. counterfeit face masks, substandard hand sanitizers, and illegal antiviral drugs, which are pushing on the market as the novel corona virus continues to spread. During Operation Pangea XIII, around 326,000 consignments have been checked, of which about 48,000 were stopped. A total of 4.4 million units of illegal pharmaceuticals were seized by the officials, including about 34,000 counterfeit and inferior face masks and alleged medication against Covid-19, which was advertised as ‘corona spray’ or ‘coronavirus medicine’. In addition, more than 2,500 online offers for illegal medicines were removed (including websites and sites on social media or online marketplaces), many of them related to Covid-19. A total of 121 people were arrested and 37 organized crime groups were disrupted. “The illicit trade in such counterfeit medical items during a public health crisis shows their total disregard for people’s wellbeing, or their lives,” said Jürgen Stock, Interpol Secretary General. The operation was accompanied by communications campaigns in participating countries, to raise awareness of the risks of counterfeiting.

EU-wide strike against counterfeit medicines and organized crime
As was recently released, Europol and several EU and non-EU countries1 managed to crack down on the trade in illegal and counterfeit medicines between July and October 2019. Nearly 36 million units of medicines were seized, 165 suspects were arrested in several EU countries, and assets worth millions were seized. Altogether, authorities disrupted twelve organized crime groups with this operation. The action was led by the French Gendarmerie Nationale and Finnish Customs (Tulli), and was supported by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), Eurojust and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). In this context, Europol also reported that counterfeit medicines are often manufactured or packaged in clandestine manufacturing sites within the EU.

1 EU countries Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain; as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Thousands of counterfeit car keys seized in Poland
Polish police seized more than 3,000 fake keys and other car parts, which were to be distributed via shops and over the Internet by a retailer based in the city of Bydgoszcz. Local police officers searched the dealer’s premises and seized a large number of items illegally bearing the trademarks of several car manufacturers. According to official information, the brand owners estimate the potential economic damage that would have been caused by the sale of the counterfeits at around three million Złoty (around 670,000 euros).

Raid nets fakes worth millions in the UK
In one of the largest raids against counterfeiting ever carried out in the Manchester area, British law enforcement authorities searched three business and warehouse premises and seized suspected counterfeits worth an estimated £7.5 million (around 8.2 million euros). The operation aimed to identify links to organized crime groups outside of Manchester. More than 100 officers and staff of the Greater Manchester Police (GMP), the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), and UK Immigration took part in the operation. The officials seized counterfeit clothing, shoes, and perfumes; and arrested 15 people. The operation was “one of the largest of its kind ever carried out in the area and has taken a meticulous amount of planning and preparation,” commented Chief Inspector Kirsten Buggy of the Greater Manchester Police.

Seizures of fakes raise by 70 percent in Swiss commercial traffic
For 2019, Swiss customs record a significant increase in seizures carried out in the trade of goods, as reported by the Swiss association Stop Piracy. A total of 2,905 consignments were confiscated by officials of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration – an alarming increase of around 70 percent year-on-year. Among the intercepted shipments were many deliveries from online trade; overall, the number of small consignments coming from Asia into Switzerland has increased six-fold in the last five years. The most seized items continue to include counterfeit handbags, clothing, and watches. However, other products were seized too, including counterfeit personal care products as well as fake mobile phones and accessories.

Sources: Europol; CBP; KMP W Bydgoszczy; Greater Manchester Police, Manchester Evening News, BBC; STOP PIRACY