Gang caught smuggling bogus Persil

FELIXSTOWE: Britain’s biggest container port was at the centre of a plot to flood the country with fake Persil washing powder, it was revealed today.

Some 25 tonnes of the soap powder was smuggled through the Port of Felixstowe after arriving on a ship from south-east China and was then tracked by a high-level surveillance operation.

Officers then swooped on an industrial estate in Cheshire where 2,900 “almost perfect” replica Persil boxes – which had been shipped in separately – were hidden and the men behind the international scam were caught red-handed.

Stephen Charlesworth, 46, Justin Campbell, 38, Martin Forrester, 39, Nicholas Moult, 42, and Michael Baggaley, 24, all from Staffordshire, admitted possessing the fake Persil, and this week a sixth man, Richard Brayford, 43, also of Staffordshire, was found guilty after a trial.

They will be sentenced at Chester Crown Court on May 19.

The court heard the men were arrested at Winsford after a joint operation by Cheshire West Police and Cheshire West Council and Trading Standards officers, following a tip-off from a private investigator hired by chemical giant Unilever.

The detergent, destined for the black market, was described as low grade.

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It had been shipped from Jinjang in the Fujian province of south China to Felixstowe on the container ship CSCL Asia in September 2008.

Judge Roger Dutton said although the crime was not the worst case in the world it was serious for Unilever.