They are on the global trail of what is a criminal sleight of hand, having us believe what is fake is in fact genuine. In a series of Interpol-led operations more than 6,000 people have been arrested worldwide for trading in illicit goods.
“Over the years counterfeiting has flourished, in my view one of the fastest growing criminal activities that we encounter now. It is a result of the advancements in technology. It’s a result of abilities of these criminal gangs to make easy money,” says the Head of Interpol’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods and Counterfeiting unit, Michael Ellis.
One of the biggest operations was called Black Poseidon II targeting Turkey, Ukraine and several other European countries. Goods worth tens of millions of euros were seized, none of which passed any safety or quality control tests. More than 3,000 people were arrested in Turkey while in Ukraine almost 22 million cigarettes were uncovered in an illegal underground tobacco factory.
In Namibia a machine which changed the expiration date on food containers was found along with fake alcohol.
“Talking about counterfeit alcohol in Namibia might seem quite a distance away but such is the sheer scale of the criminal activity and the numbers involved it can very quickly enter the supply chain and travel across the globe, ending up in a supermarket or bar close to where you are. But which is the genuine article and which is counterfeit?”
“Gone are the days when counterfeiting was maybe isolated to luxury goods. Nowadays absolutely anything is counterfeited as we have experienced in these operations,” says Ellis.
Interpol believes the key to future operations will be co-operation and where necessary the financial backing and expertise of the private sector.