In mid-September, customs from Austria intercepted a shipment of 168 boxes enroute from Hong Kong at Vienna Airport, containing nearly 6,500 counterfeit products. The shipment, weighing more than two tonnes, was camouflaged as an alleged aid delivery for the Ukraine. Based on a tip-off and on the suspicious route and packaging method, Austrian customs officials intercepted the shipment. In the cartons, they found hundreds of fake earphones, counterfeit clothing and accessories, as well as counterfeit sports shoes or watches, for example. In addition to the fakes themselves, the shipment also contained counterfeit logos and packaging. “What is also particularly despicable in this case is that the fraudsters wanted to make themselves rich regardless of the suffering and hardship of the people in the Ukraine,” said Finance Minister Magnus Brunner.
Nearly 13,000 websites taken down, more than 30 servers shut down, and 15 online stores dismantled – these are the remarkable results of Europol’s thirteenth operation In Our Sites, as the agency has released in late November. In addition, authorities from the 27 participating countries1 seized around 130,000 counterfeit products between May and November, with an estimated value of around 3.8 million euros. The operation, which was also supported by Eurojust and Interpol, focused on websites distributing illicit content, such as pirated copies of copyrighted works; but also on online stores selling counterfeits, for example via social media. For example, a Bulgarian cybercrime unit took action against a criminal network that was allegedly assembling counterfeit clothing and selling it through Facebook and websites. “These discoveries show once more that the production of counterfeit products increasingly takes place within the European Union,” the Europol report says.
In Germany, investigators of the Frankfurt am Main Customs Investigations Office took action in October against a man from the district of Kassel, North Hesse, who allegedly generated sales of more than 98,000 euros with counterfeit rim covers. Already last year, customs investigators had seized more than 8,000 fake rim covers from the suspected counterfeiter, along with other automotive parts. According to authorities, follow-up investigations revealed, among other things, that the man is alleged to have sold the counterfeits imported from China via various online marketplaces between 2019 and 2021. Accordingly, officials have seized more than 36,000 euros in cash as well as an upper-class car from the man in mid‑October.
German customs of the main customs office in Dresden seized counterfeit clothing and shoes worth an estimated 3.2 million euros in total during two cases. As has recently been released, investigators discovered tens of thousands of counterfeit clothing items in a truck from Türkiye at the beginning of August. In addition, customs officials stopped a Polish truck headed to France in early September that was transporting thousands of counterfeit brand-name shoes. Investigations in both cases are ongoing.
Amazon helps strike against counterfeiters in China
Supported by the Counterfeit Crimes Unit (CCU) of the US e commerce giant Amazon, Chinese authorities have recently dismantled three counterfeiting networks in the provinces of Guangdong and Jiangxi. More than 240,000 counterfeits were seized as a result, according to the US company. The seized counterfeits included around 130,000 car parts, about 80,000 luxury products, and roughly 30,000 items of clothing – the illegal goods apparently infringed trademark rights of companies such as BMW and Porsche, as well as Hugo Boss and Puma, for example. The CCU’s intelligence on the counterfeiters’ warehouses and production sites was reportedly decisive for the high‑profile success.