Police net another seven in European counterfeiting ring

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Seven suspected leaders of a gang selling Chinese-made goods under fake brand names were arrested in Italy in a Europe-wide operation that has made 67 arrests in two years, police and justice agencies said Friday.

Investigators seized materials and assets worth more than 11 million euros (13.8 million dollars) during Thursday's bust in Naples, of which four million euros came from bank accounts and safe deposit boxes, said a joint statement by policing agency Europol and its justice counterpart, Eurojust.

"The seven main organisers (of the gang) were arrested yesterday and today in Naples; sixty others have been arrested earlier in the context of an investigation started two years ago," Eurojust spokesman Joannes Thuy told AFP.

At the same time as the Naples operation, investigators in Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden seized "vital evidence" from more than 20 different locations, added the statement.

"The operation is the latest in a series of actions in a huge investigation that has taken place over the last two years" into the trafficking of counterfeit goods like electric generators, chainsaws, drill hammers and clothing.

The goods were produced in China and distributed all over the world via the port of Naples, said the statement.

"Before selling the goods, counterfeit labels of well-known companies were applied by the gang, who then sold them via door-to-door vendors".

The electrical goods, with labels from companies like Honda, Husqvarna, Stihl, Hitachi and Bosch, did not comply with European Union safety standards.

"The cost of an electric generator produced in China is around 35 euros whilst the sale price offered by the criminals was around 400 euros," said the statement. "The price for a genuine product from a legitimate brand is around 1,250 euros."

The statement said 800 tons of counterfeit products had been seized before Friday, representing a value of 12 million euros, including from searches of 143 warehouses in Belgium, France and Germany.

© 2010 AFP

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