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EU customs workers seized 31 million bogus products at borders last year

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EU customs workers seized 31 million bogus products

EU customs officials seized more than 31 million counterfeit products at the 28-nation bloc’s external border in 2017, new figures released yesterday by the European Commission have revealed.

The items had an estimated a street value of over €580 million ($672 million).

While the number of smuggled items discovered at the border was down compared to the previous year, potentially-dangerous bogus goods such as healthcare products, medicines, toys and electrical items made up a higher proportion (43%) of all seizures.

Fake food and drink items accounted for the greatest proportion (24%) of all counterfeit goods seized across the course of the year, followed by toys (11%), tobacco products (9%) and clothing (7%).

The Commission said 65% of all seized counterfeit items entered the EU by boat, typically as part of major large consignments.

Fourteen percent of fake products were brought into the EU by air, while counterfeit items smuggled into the bloc by courier traffic and postal traffic jointly accounted for 11% of all seizures. These were mostly made up of consumer goods ordered online such as shoes, clothing, bags and watches.

Overall, the total number of fake articles seized across the course of 2017 decreased by 24% compared to the previous year.

Commenting on the release of the new figures, Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs said: “The EU’s Customs Union is on the front line when it comes to protecting citizens from fake, counterfeit and sometimes highly dangerous goods.

“Stopping imports of counterfeits into the EU also supports jobs and the wider economy as a whole.

“The European Union stands in support of intellectual property and will continue our campaign to protect consumer health as well as protecting businesses from criminal infringement of their rights.”

While China again remained the primary country of source for fake goods entering the EU, the greatest quantity of counterfeit clothing originated from Turkey last year.

Hong Kong and China were the source of the majority of counterfeit mobile phones and accessories, ink cartridges and toners, CDs/DVDs and labels, tags and stickers that entered the EU in 2017.

Elsewhere, India was the top source of counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

In a statement, the Commission said: “This year’s figures highlight the importance of the measures presented last year by the Commission to ensure that intellectual property rights are well protected, thereby encouraging European companies, in particular SMEs and start-ups, to invest in innovation and creativity.”

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Colombian and Spanish police smash two drug labs capable of producing two tonnes of cocaine a month

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Colombian and Spanish police smash two drug labs

Police in Spain have teamed up with their counterparts in Colombia to shut down two clandestine cocaine processing facilities said to have been capable of pumping out two tonnes of the drug every month.

One of the factories was located in the Spanish municipality of Casasbuenas in the province of Toledo, while the other was found deep in the Colombian jungle and was controlled by Front 21 of the FARC dissidents.

At the Spanish site, investigators arrested four Colombian nationals who are said to have been brought into the country specifically to turn coca base into high-purity cocaine.

Agents from Spain’s elite Grupo Especial de Operaciones (GEO) unit also detained an armed individual whose job it was to guard the facility and monitor the work of the four Colombian cocaine “cooks”.

As well as making the arrests, Spanish officers also seized 150kgs of coca base, 7kgs of cocaine that had been processed and was ready for distribution, seven tonnes of chemicals used as precursors for the production of cocaine hydrochloride, a gun and more than €100,000 ($110,744) in cash.

Meanwhile on the Colombian side of the operation, another secret laboratory was raided in the jungle in Tolima that was used for the processing of cocaine base paste and cocaine hydrochloride.

Police in Colombia seized 260 litres of coca base that was being processed, 400kgs of coca leaf, and a large quantity of precursor chemicals.

In total, nine people were arrested in Spain, including the leader of the organisation and his lieutenant, who controlled another centre for the adulteration and cutting of cocaine in the province of Guadalajara.

One of the suspects is reported to have owned a network of front companies that the gang used to import coal from South America that had been impregnated with cocaine.

Once the coal had entered Spain, it would be transferred to processing plants where experts would use special technique to extract the cocaine before preparing it for distribution.

A joint intranational investigation into the gang’s activities was launched in the first few months of this year when authorities in Colombia learned that a Colombian national was plotting to set up a conspiracy to smuggle cocaine hidden in different legal merchandise into Spain before using clandestine factories to extract the drugs and ready them for sale.

Back in May, it was reported that Spanish investigators had broken up a Colombian gang that impregnated cocaine into plastic pellets before smuggling them to Madrid and Toledo for extraction.

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Eastern Europeans easy prey for traffickers despite knowledge of exploitative practices, IOM survey finds

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Eastern Europeans easy prey for traffickers

A poll conducted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has revealed that Eastern Europeans are easy prey for people smuggling gangs and human traffickers despite having high-level knowledge of organised immigration crime.

The Survey on Migration and Human Trafficking in Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Georgia, which was conducted on behalf of the IOM by market research agency Info Sapiens, found that while 86% of Ukrainians are aware of human trafficking, 13% would cross the border irregularly, work without official employment status in exploitive conditions without freedom of movement, or hand over their passport to an employer.

In Georgia, 81% of respondents were found to have a good understanding of human trafficking, with 24% willing to put themselves at risk.

In Belarus, the figures were 85% and 11% respectively, while in Moldova, they were 75% and 17%.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Anh Nguyen, Chief of Mission at IOM Ukraine, said: “IOM is the leading provider of assistance to vulnerable migrants and victims of trafficking in the region, with more than 16,000 trafficking survivors assisted since 2000 in Ukraine.

“The latest survey findings about high levels of irregular employment among migrant workers from Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Georgia, as well as our empirical knowledge that Ukrainians prefer to look for jobs abroad through informal channels, show the high need for intensified trafficking prevention affords in the region.”

Last month, an operation conducted jointly by police in Spain and Lithuania resulted in the dismantling of a gang that trafficked women for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

The leaders of the criminal network, two of whom were arrested in a day of action targeting the gang, were said to have used extreme violence to force their victims to work as prostitutes in Lithuania.

Also in November, four members of an eastern European sex trafficking gang were handed prison terms by a Scottish court that totalled more than 36 years after they were convicted of smuggling Slovakian women to Scotland before forcing them to work as prostitutes and enter sham marriages.

Back in October, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić used the annual European Anti-trafficking Day to urge EU member states to ensure victims of human trafficking and modern slavery were able to access justice, including financial compensation, for the abuses they suffer.

Explaining how human traffickers keep their victims in the most appalling of conditions, Burić said: “Traffickers must be rigorously prosecuted and punished, but justice must also be done to the victims of trafficking – by making sure they receive compensation, they are protected from being trafficked again and they are given sufficient help to put their lives back together.”

 

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Chinese man arrested at Nepal airport with 1kg of gold hidden up his backside

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gold hidden up his backside

Eagle-eyed customs officers at Nepal’s Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport have arrested a man with 1kg of gold concealed inside his rectum.

The Chinese national, named by the Himalayan Times as 22-year-old Sa Luitui, was pulled to one side by security workers at the airport after they noticed he was walking in a peculiar fashion.

Having arrived on a Tibet Air flight from China, the man was asked to pass through an x-ray machine after his discomfort was noticed by officers at the arrivals gate.

Once he had walked through the machine, it was determined he was carrying a quantity of metal concealed inside his body.

When questioned, he admitted he had inserted gold up his backside.

He was taken to a local hospital where doctors extracted the gold, which had been placed inside a condom.

One end of the condom was left sticking out of the man’s rectum to aid retrieval of the contraband.

The man’s bungled smuggling attempt comes after two other Chinese nationals were caught trying to enter the country through the same airport with undeclared gold.

Last Thursday, Chen Qinghuang and Chen Zhaoyang were apprehended while carrying 8kgs of gold through Tribhuvan.

Local police said gold smugglers have recently been using new methods to sneak gold through Nepal’s only international airport, with increasing numbers concealing the precious internally, or hiding it inside laptops or the soles of their trainers.

In May 2016, the BBC reported that a man has been detained at Bangladesh’s Dhaka Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport for attempting to smuggle 600gs of gold bars he had inserted into his rectum.

While the dangers of inserting drugs into the anal cavity are relatively well known, attempting to smuggle items that pose no risk of causing damage by being absorbed into the body can also cause serious injury.

Severe damage can be caused to the rectum while either attempting to insert or extract items such as gold.

Last month, it was reported that Russian guards working on the country’s border with China had arrested a woman for attempting to smuggle gold discs taped to the bottom of her feet.

The 27-year-old Russian national was taken to one side by customs officers after they noticed she was walking in a strange manner.

Back in October, a man was detained at India’s Cochin International Airport after security workers discovered he was attempting to sneak gold into the country hidden under a wig.

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