Fake shirts - officials pounce

ORGANISED crime gangs are being hunted today after an Aladdin's Cave of fake Premiership football kits was seized at Felixstowe docks.Racketeers from the Far East hoping to profit from the booming trade in shirts and shorts were thwarted when customs officers pounced at the port.

ORGANISED crime gangs are being hunted today after an Aladdin's Cave of fake Premiership football kits was seized at Felixstowe docks.

Racketeers from the Far East hoping to profit from the booming trade in shirts and shorts were thwarted when customs officers pounced at the port.

Around 800 counterfeit shirts and shorts were discovered in six large cartons. The authorities also found other items replicating club merchandise in the form of clocks.

The lucrative nature of selling the goods on the black market is illustrated by the street value of the illegal cargo, which HM Customs estimate at £36,000.

The black marketeers were attempting to rip-off some of the top clubs in the country including Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

The consignment had arrived at Felixstowe among a large cargo of general merchandise from China.

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Stephen Middleditch, HM Customs detection manager at Felixstowe docks, said there was a massive market in smuggling counterfeit goods globally which helped fund organised crime or potential terrorist activity.

China and the Far East have a reputation for being at the forefront of the illegal trade, which encompasses all types of manufacturing industries from cigarettes to clothes and even contraceptives.

Mr Middleditch said: “Counterfeit items have tended to be luxury goods, primarily brand names, although there is still a trend for the more common high-street brands. The mark-up on counterfeit goods is absolutely enormous.

“There are two types of consumers. Those who unwittingly buy these types of goods and those who knowingly buy counterfeit products at a cheaper rate. It's undoubtedly a false economy because the quality of goods is very poor.

“There is counterfeiting going on everywhere, but the vast majority of goods that are detected are from the Far East, particularly China.

“It's not just harmless consumer goods. We have also detected fake pharmaceuticals and fake contraceptives. There is the potential for a lot of harm and lots of health and safety issues.

“The image that probably a lot of people have is of a barrow boy or Del Boy-type of character (selling them) and that's just not accurate.”

Anyone with any information on these or any other illegal goods can telephone our 24-hour confidential hotline on 0800 59 5000.

N Have you been duped after buying counterfeit goods? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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