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US agents seize fake Chinese goods worth $16 million in Texas

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counterfeit goods rise to account for 3.3% of all global trade

Officers from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have seized Chinese-made counterfeit luxury items estimated to be worth $16 million in the Texan city of Laredo.

Working in collaboration with colleagues from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), ICE investigators last Thursday impounded 78,908 suspected fake items, including knockoffs of clothing and electronics products from Adidas, Apple, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Samsung and Sony.

The confiscated items, which were part of a consignment that officials said was the second-largest seizure HSI had made in Laredo, will now be investigated by agencies including US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Mexican Customs and representatives from the trademark industry.

Special agents seized the items after HSI launched a clandestine surveillance operation targeting a public storage facility in Laredo, where a number of individuals were observed carrying boxes out of a rented storage unit to trucks and vans sporting Mexican licence plates.

During the surveillance operation, a large air cargo container was seen approaching the unit, from which counterfeit products were transferred to the waiting trucks.

It was at this time that HSI intervened, confiscating 275 boxes containing 78,908 items of suspected trademark-infringed merchandise.

No arrests have so far been made in relation to the shipment, but ICE said investigations are ongoing.

Commenting on the seizure, Tim Tubbs, Deputy Special Agent In charge of HSI Laredo, said in a statement: “Trafficking counterfeit goods poses a triple threat.

“Counterfeit merchandise wreaks havoc on local economies, threatens the health and safety of the American public, and funds criminal organisations engaged in other illegal activities.”

Organised crime groups that traffic these types of counterfeit goods typically ship them into Mexico, where they are able bribe Mexican regulatory and law enforcement officials so that the merchandise passes without inspection and the payment of duties.

In June 2016, a study published by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global IP Centre revealed that as much of 86% of the world’s fake goods originate from China and Hong Kong.

In its Measuring the Magnitude of Global Counterfeiting report, the US Chamber said: “Despite having become one of the leading players in world trade, China faces significant challenges in the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

“Even though improvements have occurred in recent years, China’s IP environment remains challenging and criminal prosecution against counterfeiters in many industry sectors is inconsistent.

“[W]hen looking at seizure data from major economies and international trade organisations, it is clear that today China is the world leader in producing and exporting counterfeit goods.”

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Crooked vendors exploiting flaw in eBay’s feedback system to con buyers into purchasing bogus and dangerous items

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crooked vendors exploiting flaw in eBay’s feedback system

Buyers on eBay are being duped into purchasing substandard and counterfeit products due to a flaw in the online auction platform’s seller feedback system, according to an investigation conducted by UK consumer group Which?

The watchdog found that dishonest vendors can take advantage of these flaws by linking positive reviews of genuine products manufactured by companies such as Apple and Samsung to fake and low-quality items.

Which? found that crooked sellers are able to link thousands of positive reviews to eBay listings they have nothing to do with.

The organisation discovered that real reviews can be associated with fake products that are potentially dangerous, such as counterfeit mobile phone chargers that can pose a fire risk.

Sellers are able to do this by using “product IDs” associated with genuine items when adding their products to eBay, subsequently benefitting from the positive reviews those items have attracted.

The system is intended to make the process of listing products on eBay quicker and easier by allowing sellers to pull information from similar items that have a linked product ID.

As part of its investigation, Which? purchased 20 bogus Apple and Samsung accessories such as chargers and USB cables that were supposed to be official and shared the same reviews as products manufactured by the two technology firms

Calling for online ecommerce platforms to be held accountable for flaws in their seller feedback systems that allow dishonest vendors to pull the wool over buyers’ eyes, Head of Home Products and Services at Which? Natalie Hitchins said: “Our investigation has uncovered yet another example of online reviews being manipulated to mislead people.

“eBay’s product review system is confusing for consumers and could even direct them towards counterfeit or dangerous products sold by unscrupulous sellers.

“Online reviews influence billions of pounds of consumer spending each year.

“The [UK Competition and Markets Authority] must now investigate how fake and misleading reviews are duping online shoppers, taking the strongest possible action against sites that fail to tackle the problem.”

Responding to the findings of Which?’s investigation eBay said in a statement: “The research does not fully consider that there are distinctions between product reviews (which provide buyers with a holistic review of the same product), and seller feedback (which can be used to see specific reviews of a seller’s performance and may reflect the item’s condition).”

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that US politicians had called on lawmakers to hold ecommerce companies such as eBay and Amazon to account if they fail to prevent third-party vendors selling counterfeit or substandard products on their platforms.

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Authorities in Dubai seize more than 29,000 fake watches worth more than $327 million

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authorities in Dubai seize more than 29,000 fake watches

Law enforcement officers in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai have seized more than 29,000 fake watches that would have been worth more than AED1.2 billion ($327 million) had they been genuine.

An operation targeting the kingpins behind the counterfeiting conspiracy resulted in the arrest of two men in the Naif area of the city and the confiscation of a huge haul of bogus timepieces from the premises out of which they operated.

During a press conference in which he hailed the success of the operation, which was codenamed 60 Minutes, Brigadier Al Jalaf of Dubai Police praised the work of government agencies and the private sector firms whose products were faked during the conspiracy for their work in bringing the counterfeiting racket to an end.

In total, the operation resulted in the recovery of 29, 217 counterfeit watches that would have had a market value of AED1,239,240,450 billion had they not been fake.

Describing how the investigation that led to the arrest of the suspects began after police received a tip-off, Jalaf said: “Upon receiving a tip from a reliable source on some illegal business promoting and selling counterfeit goods in Naif area, our team started investigating the case to pinpoint the suspects and locate their whereabouts.

“Soon after, the Crime Analysis Centre at Dubai Police identified two suspects of Asian nationality who have criminal records and located two apartments where they stored the counterfeit goods.”

Urging members of the public to report counterfeit products, Jalaf went on to say: “Our strategic partners from government departments and private companies and their support, have always been serving the security and economic march of the emirate.”

On Twitter, Dubai Police yesterday posted dramatic video footage of the moment armed officers raided the apartment at which the counterfeiters stored their bogus products.

The clip also included images of scores of bags containing many thousands of counterfeit timepieces, many of which carried the branding of major luxury watchmakers.

It is said that the counterfeiters used the flat as base from which to sell their fake wristwatches to both individual buyers and business customers.

The suspects, who were identified by police as “two Asian men”, will likely be jailed and face a fine of up to AED50,000.

The men were said to have been selling watches that would have been worth AED100,000 if they were real for AED20,000.

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Crackdown on NBA counterfeiters in Chicago results in seizure of almost 127,000 bogus items worth over $2.5 million

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crackdown on NBA counterfeiters in Chicago

US customs officers have confiscated nearly 127,000 counterfeit National Basketball Association (NBA)-related items that would have been worth over $2.5 million had they been genuine.

During a six-day operation launched in the lead-up to the NBA All-Star Weekend, which took place in Chicago earlier this month, agents from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit seized a huge quality of bogus trademarked sports merchandise, including hats and shirts, as well as fake NBA All-Star Game tickets.

The counterfeit products were confiscated from businesses and street vendors, the agency said.

Commenting on the success of the operation, James Gibbons, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Chicago, said: “HSI and its law enforcement partners are committed to keeping counterfeiters from deceiving unsuspecting fans at major sporting events, such as the NBA All-Star Game.

“We appreciate this collaboration with the NBA to bring awareness to a crime that costs U.S. businesses billions of dollars each year and exploits consumers, who unknowingly spend their hard-earned money on second-rate memorabilia.”

Last May, ICE warned members of the public to beware of purchasing counterfeit sports apparel and tickets to games and other events linked to the NBA Finals in San Francisco.

In a statement, the agency said sports fans should stay vigilant for counterfeit jerseys, ball caps, t-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs.

Last September, officers from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Los Angeles International Airport found 28 fake NBA championship rings that would have been worth some $560,000 had they been genuine.

At the end of January, CBP and ICE revealed they had seized 176,000 counterfeit sports-related items that would have been worth $123 million if sold at their manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

The items were confiscated as part of Operation Team Player, an ongoing effort to tackle the illegal importation and distribution of fake sports merchandise, and were seized from retail outlets, flea markets and street vendors.

Speaking at the time, NFL Vice President of Legal Affairs Dolores DiBella said: “Operation Team Player remains one of the most important national initiatives for protecting sports fans from the sale of counterfeit products and counterfeit tickets.

“The joint efforts of the NFL, the IPR Centre, HSI, CBP, and Miami area law enforcement have helped ensure that Super Bowl LIV remains an authentic and outstanding experience for our fans.”

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