Turkey: Massive increase in counterfeit exports

© Simon Dannhauer / Fotolia.
The sharp fall in the value of the Turkish lira is fueling a surge in counterfeits from Turkey. Fakes coming out of Turkey, such as designer clothing and medicines, are now often intercepted at EU borders.

The rapid fall in the value of the Turkish lira and the economic crisis in Turkey are fueling a boom in the export of illegal counterfeits, as a recent research by the British daily newspaper The Guardian shows. According to that, the sharp drop in the lira’s exchange rate makes counterfeits offered in Turkey cheaper to buy for foreign traders paying in euros. And due to the economic crisis, even factories that legally produce for major brands would sometimes put in extra shifts to manufacture counterfeits, as the profits with fake goods are much higher – according to the experiences of Zeynep Seda Alhas, a specialist for IP rights at an Istanbul law firm.

Turkey is the third largest exporter of counterfeit products to the EU, after China and Hong Kong (based on seizure value) – and it is now considered a major source of fake designer clothes and medicines (based on the number of counterfeits seized), according to EUIPO estimates. Accordingly, the value of intercepted counterfeits from Turkey has more than tripled between 2019 and 2020, amounting to nearly 134 million euros, reports the Guardian.

In the wake of the currency crisis, legal exports from Turkey have now also surged, increasing by 33% over the year to now 225 billion US dollars (about 205 billion euros), according to Turkey’s state statistics institute. “There’s no reason why counterfeit goods’ exports would increase any less than legal exports,” comments Ümit İzmen, former chief economist at TÜSİAD, a Turkish business association.

For the law firm where IP lawyer Alhas works, the number of court-approved raids against counterfeiting has reportedly doubled in 2021, the number of counterfeits seized even tripled. In a January raid alone, for example, more than 350,000 pairs of counterfeit designer trainers were seized in three Istanbul workshops, some half-finished, all destined to be shipped abroad. Alhas tells that it is hardly possible to intercept such fakes when orders are placed online and sent in small-scale parcels.

Counterfeits are also being traded on social media. One store owner, who reportedly has some 155,000 followers on TikTok, claims that they dispatch about 300 packages of counterfeit goods monthly. “I could sell a ton more, but I don’t want to attract attention,” the store owner states. “Our sales doubled in 2021. It’s such a good deal if you earn in dollars or euros.”

Organized crime groups are also involved in the illegal counterfeiting business. Some companies also specialize in trafficking counterfeits to EU countries and smuggle the illegal goods through customs checks. In 2020, for example, a Europol analysis reported about criminals transporting large quantities of counterfeit goods from Turkey to Greece, using corruption and fabricated documents. The Bulgarian Customs Service also regularly reports the stopping of vehicles from Turkey that were transporting counterfeit goods. Among others, a bus driver who had hidden hundreds of bottles of counterfeit perfume under the passenger seat was taken out of circulation.

Sources: The Guardian, EUIPO, Europol

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