International scam uncovered

CUSTOMS officers at Felixstowe are today poised to intercept ten containers carrying china being imported to be sold as part of an international scam.They have already impounded 175,000 mugs after a tip-off – and are now ready and waiting for another 700,000 believed en route for Britain from the Far East.

CUSTOMS officers at Felixstowe are today poised to intercept ten containers carrying china being imported to be sold as part of an international scam.

They have already impounded 175,000 mugs after a tip-off – and are now ready and waiting for another 700,000 believed en route for Britain from the Far East.

The mugs all have a "Made in England" backstamp, but were not made in this country at all.

They were made in India and those making and selling the ceramics, which are contrary to the Trade Descriptions Act, could face two years in jail if caught.


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Customs spokesman John Barber said the goods has been seized after information was received from trading standards officers in Stoke-on-Trent in the Potteries, the centre of Britain's china industry.

It was thought the mugs, packed in three containers, were destined for the Potteries, from where they would be distributed nationally.

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The area's ceramics industry is already facing severe pressure and such scams threatened jobs and the local economy.

"This was a case where we don't necessarily have primary responsibility for looking out for counterfeit goods but were working with our colleagues in Trading Standards as part of agreements we have with them," said Mr Barber.

"They passed on to us certain intelligence they had and we kept a look-out for the goods in question.

"Our officers are still working on this case as it is believed that more similar items of counterfeit goods may be involved."

Customs and Trading Standards believe Felixstowe is one of the major avenues into Britain for smugglers of counterfeit goods, but it is often difficult to discover the goods until they appear for sale on markets or in shops.

John Ashcroft, Stoke-on-Trent City Council's trading standards manager, said the seizure represented a new approach by the authority to illegal backstamping.

"The problem in the past was gaining evidence after picking up wares in the city. Establishing where they came from was difficult to prove," he said.

"We have changed our tack, and have been working closely with Customs and Excise nationally to find a new way to stop the importation of foreign ceramics described as made in this country.

"This is the first time we have been able to detect them entering Britain and the seizure is a major success."

The Indian wares breach the Trades Description Act, which makes it an offence to apply a false or misleading origin marking to goods. Offenders can be imprisoned for a maximum of two years, or face an unlimited fine.

It is not known yet what will happen to the seized wares, because they have technically not yet entered the country.

The consignment could be allowed to enter Britain if their markings are changed to make it clear they were not made here.

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