Customs report, AI adverts, counterfeiting syndicate – news in brief

© Andreas Scholz/
Austria: Customs seize items worth millions in 2023 // Online: Google removes billions of ads in 2023 with the help of AI // Europol: Criminal group trading in luxury counterfeits and illegal drugs busted // Germany: Customs confiscate counterfeit fashion

Austria: Customs seize items worth millions in 2023
Almost 200,000 counterfeit items seized by Austrian customs in 2023 are estimated at close to 36 million euros, reports the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF). The authorities in the Republic of Austria also initiated around 14,000 proceedings. Compared to the previous year, customs in Austria recorded a rapid increase, according to the BMF: The approximately 7,000 cases of counterfeiting detected represent an increase of 77%. The authorities even saw a massive increase of 586% in the number of confiscated items. The Ministry also attributes this strong growth to increased control activities in postal traffic as well as improved risk analysis and assessment.

Online: Google removes billions of ads in 2023 with the help of AI
Google blocked or removed a total of around 5.5 billion adverts in 2023 that violated the company’s policies – including around 550 million adverts that used protected brand names and logos without permission. These advertisements were the second most frequently removed type of advertising, second only to advertisements referring to malware. However, the widespread adverts of the Chinese e‑commerce platforms Shein and Temu, which are often criticized for counterfeiting, apparently comply with the group’s guidelines. Temu, for example, is one of Google’s largest advertisers (and even the largest advertising customer of Meta). To detect such attempts at fraud, Google also uses its own large language model (LLM) called Gemini. In addition to code, this model apparently is also able to process text, images, audio, and video in order to detect even more fraud attempts. However, fraudsters are now also increasingly often using artificial intelligence (AI) to create such ads.

Europol: Criminal group trading in luxury counterfeits and illegal drugs busted
In a large‑scale operation involving actions in Belgium, Israel, the Netherlands, and Slovakia, investigators have confiscated numerous counterfeit luxury items, among other things, as Europol reported in March. Led by Belgian authorities, the involved law enforcement agencies in the four countries conducted 26 raids and confiscated 165 counterfeit watches, jewelry, and other items; as well as 200 diamonds, over 200,000 euros in cash, cryptocurrency ledgers, 14kg of drugs, weapons, telephones, computers, and credit cards. The network had come to the attention of the authorities back in 2022, when police officers intercepted 600g of cocaine in Brussels. Investigations subsequently established that the group allegedly dealt in illegal drugs and counterfeit luxury goods. The group is also alleged to have been active in money laundering, for example through cryptocurrencies, illegal banking systems, and investments in real estate.

Germany: Customs confiscate counterfeit fashion
In early February 2024, German customs seized a consignment of counterfeit goods at the border of Germany and Switzerland. As officials recently released, customs stopped a postal package from China in Waldshut, in the state of Baden‑Württemberg, that had been ordered by a 20‑year‑old Swiss man. The man had allegedly only paid 310 US dollars (around 285 euros) for the included 20 counterfeit items from well‑known luxury brands, which, according to customs, had the original value of a small car. The buyer of the counterfeits now faces potential civil proceedings against him by the brand owners.

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