December 9, 2016 11:59:26 pm
Authorities in Spain dismantled one of the European Union’s main hubs for counterfeit goods, arresting 71 people and seizing close to 270,000 fake watches, jewellery and other goods, police and Europol said Friday.
The international gang that acquired and sold the counterfeit products operated in and around La Jonquera in northeastern Spain, a town close to the French border known for its brothels and supermarkets selling low cost alcohol and tobacco.
Spanish police told reporters the products seized were worth over eight million euros at market prices — “the biggest (operation) ever conducted in Spain” against violations of intellectual property (IP).
In a statement, European police agency Europol, which assisted Spanish forces in the operation, said they had dismantled a “main European Union hub” for the distribution of counterfeit goods.
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Police staged the operation on November 29 when they made the arrests and inspected more than 40 premises, seizing clothes, shoes, sunglasses, watches, jewellery, leather goods and other products.
“In some of the premises, investigators discovered the existence of secret warehouses hidden behind false walls, used by the criminals to conceal the newest illicit merchandise in case of a police intervention,” said Europol.
The majority of those detained were Israeli or Moroccan.
Chris Vansteenkiste, head of counterfeiting at Europol, said the region was “one of the black spots in the European Union” for this type of offence, along with the border between the Czech Republic and Germany.
The gang “also used a sophisticated network of fictitious companies and front men to launder the proceeds of their criminal activities, which are thought to have exceeded nine million euros”, Europol said.
Many of the products were imported from abroad, in particular China, Portugal and Turkey. Other products, mainly leather goods and belts, were counterfeited directly in Spain.
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