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Police seize over £7.5 million of counterfeit goods during huge operation in Cheetham Hill

A raid, led by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and Greater Manchester Police, has so far uncovered an estimated £7.5 million of branded clothing, shoes and perfume suspected to be counterfeit.

The joint action between both forces and Immigration Services, has also seen 15 people arrested - 11 for offences relating to the distribution of counterfeit goods and four for immigration offences.

The three premises in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, were raided by police officers on Wednesday 11 March 2020 in a large scale operation aimed at cracking down on the sale of counterfeit goods. The search warrant, which developed from a previous operation that involved the sale and distribution of counterfeit items through an online sales platform, involved 100 officers and staff.

Officers worked throughout the night to clear all three units, and although the investigation is still ongoing, they have so far confiscated suspected counterfeit: shoes, clothing, handbags, watches, wallets, perfume, sunglasses, headphones, and fake brand labels.

Mobile phones and cash has also been seized from those arrested.

Police Staff Investigator Charlotte Beattie, of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), who is leading the investigation, said:

“The counterfeit goods business regularly helps to fund other types of serious organised crime. An individual may think that when buying counterfeit goods they are only affecting a multi-million pound brand, but in reality they are helping to fund organised criminal activity.

“Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. These fake items can pose a health risk to individuals as they usually are not fit for purpose or have not gone through the legal health and safety checks. For example, counterfeit makeup and perfume can contain harmful chemicals that can damage the skin.

“We would like to thank Greater Manchester Police and our other partners for helping to tackle the scourge of the counterfeit goods problem.” 

Chief Inspector Kirsten Buggy, of Greater Manchester Police’s North Manchester division, said:

“Yesterday’s operation is one of the largest of its kind ever carried out in the area and has taken a meticulous amount of planning and preparation.

“I am thankful to colleagues from the City of London Police, who as national policing lead for fraud, have worked in partnership with officers from GMP and helped bring about yesterday’s direct action. I am also grateful to those from UK Immigration and our other partner organisations.

“Such partnerships are absolutely vital when tackling counterfeit operations, as they bring specialisms from across the country together in a bid to make an impactive and real difference. Steps such as yesterday are often only the start when it comes to investigating the scale of these operations and we will continue to work in conjunction with the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit to tackle this type of offending to its very core.

“It is important to recognise the far-reaching and serious impact of sophisticated and large scale counterfeit operations such as this one; and I would like to take this opportunity to remind members of the public of the repercussions of this kind of offending and the link to organised criminal activity. Please be under no illusion- this type of crime is not victimless.”

Phil Lewis, Director General of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) said:

“These Manchester traders selling counterfeit goods are blatantly defrauding consumers. They’re harming legitimate businesses and making absolutely no contribution toward public services or the UK economy. Selling and making counterfeit goods, of any sort, is against the law and can result in a prison sentence.

“The vast profits made by selling these fake goods are increasingly funding organised crime. PIPCU’s great work, together with members of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), is an excellent example of partnership working on the ground to stem this destructive crime wave.

“We urge consumers to stop buying goods from these types of premises and think twice about the goods they buy online, because counterfeit goods are often of poor quality and more worryingly, can be unsafe and even dangerous."

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