Counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines found in Mexico, Poland // Thousands of fakes seized in Belgium, Germany // Facebook, Gucci sue counterfeiting vendor on social media // Tens of thousands of designer fakes seized in the UK.

Counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines found in Mexico, Poland
Fakes of the coronavirus vaccine by German company Biontech and the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer have been identified in Mexico. About 80 patients have already received the counterfeit vaccine shots, according to respective media reports. The alleged Covid-19 vaccine doses carried a counterfeit label and attracted suspicion at a clinic as they were stored in unusual coolers and had suspicious run numbers and expiration dates. Pfizer identified the vaccines as counterfeit. The company sees an increasing risk of such criminal activities, as a Pfizer spokesperson explained: “We are cognisant that in this type of environment – fuelled by the ease and convenience of e-commerce and anonymity afforded by the Internet – there will be an increase in the prevalence of fraud, counterfeit and other illicit activity as it relates to vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.” Counterfeit vaccine doses also surfaced in Poland as early as late January, media reports said. According to the reports, a 26-year-old sold counterfeit Biontech-Pfizer vaccines as well as fabricated negative PCR test certificates on the darknet. Again, Pfizer confirmed that the alleged Corona vaccine doses were counterfeit and actually contained an anti-wrinkle product. Authorities had warned against counterfeit Coronavirus vaccines already a few months ago.

Thousands of fakes seized in Belgium, Germany
Belgian and German officials seized counterfeit brand-name shoes and perfumes worth about 400,000 euros, with support from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). Hundreds of sports shoes of well-known brands were confiscated by Belgian authorities back in February at a warehouse in Antwerp, which had previously been identified by OLAF and Belgian authorities as a central distribution point for the counterfeit goods. Another team of Belgian authorities seized about 3,000 counterfeit shoes and perfumes at a second warehouse located in Charleroi, about 100 kilometers away. Thanks to international coordination by OLAF, German authorities also seized another circa 400 pairs of shoes and textiles. “Our cooperation with the Belgian authorities was excellent, and OLAF’s cross-border coordination with the German authorities was instrumental to the seizures in Germany,” says Ville Itälä, Director-General of OLAF.

Facebook, Gucci sue counterfeiting vendor on social media
In a bid to crack down on the sale of counterfeits of luxury brand Gucci, the Facebook Group and luxury goods manufacturer Gucci have filed a joint lawsuit against a Russian-based social media user. A California court must now decide whether the user operated an international counterfeiting trade via social media. The companies claim she has been promoting counterfeit goods on Facebook and Instagram since at least April 2020, including fake handbags, shoes, clothing, and accessories from luxury goods manufacturer Gucci. To do so, she allegedly created five Facebook accounts and more than 150 Instagram profiles; deceiving buyers into thinking she was selling original goods. The original manufacturer reports having identified several test purchases as counterfeits in late 2020. Facebook also informs that the network has already taken action against the accused several times since 2015; however, she repeatedly obtains access to the network’s sites with the help of automation software, for example.

Tens of thousands of designer fakes seized in the UK
British authorities have seized around 45,000 counterfeit designer items in several operations and arrested a total of seven suspects. The involved officers from the Greater Manchester Police, the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, and the City of London Police confiscated items such as counterfeit handbags, shoes, electronics, perfumes, and jewelry; with an estimated retail value of around 15 million pounds (about 17.3 million euros). The raids were carried out over three days at four different locations in the Manchester area and were based on intelligence from a preceding investigation; a total of around 60 officers were involved. The large-scale operation “should send a strong message to other criminals involved in counterfeit goods that it won’t be tolerated”, says superintendent Peter Ratcliffe of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).

Sources: Deutsche Welle, Securing Industry; OLAF; The Fashion Law; City of London Police