Camorra-type clan behind massive counterfeiting of power tools and clothing
In an operation concluded early this morning, law enforcement agencies in 7 European Union Member States undertook a major action against a network of criminals, suspected to be behind a huge system of trafficking counterfeit commodities. Today’s action and its background investigation were supported by Eurojust and Europol.
The Anti-mafia Prosecution Office of Naples co-ordinated an operation leading to the arrest by the Guardia di Finanza of 7 individuals and the seizure of materials and assets exceeding 11 million euro, which includes 4 million euro from bank accounts and safe deposit boxes.
Simultaneous actions also took place in the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain and the UK, where vital evidence was secured from more than 20 different locations.
This operation is the latest in a series of actions in a huge investigation that has taken place over the last two years. Prior to today, 60 arrests had been made and 800 tons of counterfeit products seized, representing a value of 12 million euro, during the search of 143 warehouses in Belgium, France and Germany.
In the course of this multi-agency investigation, 20 European Union Member States and 3 third countries, representing customs, police and other law enforcement agencies, such as Gendarmerie and Guardia Civil, and prosecution offices, have co-operated throughout via Eurojust and Europol. To this end, 12 operational and co-ordination meetings were held in addition to the daily exchange of information.
The case involves the traffic of counterfeit products such as electric generators, chainsaws, drill hammers as well as clothing. The illicit products were produced in China and distributed all over the world via the port of Naples. Before selling the goods, counterfeit labels of well-known companies were applied by the gang, who then sold them via door-to-door vendors. The electrical goods did not comply with any European Union safety standards thus representing a huge health and safety threat to users.
The criminal activity was highly profitable – for example, a team of two vendors generated 250,000 euros after only 2-3 months of illegal activity. The cost of an electric generator produced in China is around 35 euro whilst the sale price offered by the criminals was around 400 euro. The price for a genuine product from a legitimate brand is around 1,250 euro.
Analysis performed throughout the investigation at Europol identified the criminal network, its sophisticated modus operandi and its money flow. This centred in the vicinity of Naples, with tentacles stretching to Australia, Iceland and Finland. Europol’s support also extended to the provision of on-the-spot officers during each action day in Italy, France and Germany.
Based on the above results, Eurojust, in line with its mission of co-ordinating national judicial authorities, established a network of prosecutors to lead cases at each national level and promoted a common strategy. Under the leadership of the French and the Italian Desks, Eurojust National Members exercised their powers to secure the opening of several domestic investigations. This provided the judicial authority of Naples, in charge of the parallel money laundering investigation, with information on the predicate counterfeiting offences through the execution of more than 30 requests for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA).
Additionally, technical meetings attended by companies affected by the counterfeiting, such as Honda, Husqvarna,Stihl, Hitachi and Bosch, established a close partnership with the private sector. Similarly, assistance from certification companies and testing laboratories such as TÜV-SÜD and TÜV Rheinland, via the Certification Industry Against Counterfeiting (CIAC) and Interpol, provided important support, which hugely assisted the investigations.
This case proves that the huge profits that can be made from the distribution of counterfeit articles attract the attention of organisations with links to Camorra.
“”I am pleased to see that through international co-operation we were once again able to hit some large and advanced criminal structures who are making an immense profit from deceiving European consumers and who are endangering public health by disregarding safety standards. Europol is committed to defending European citizens from the threats posed by these and other serious criminal activities””, said Mr Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
Mr Aled Williams, President of Eurojust, also emphasised the successful teamwork between all law enforcement and judicial partners:
“The result which the national authorities achieved in this case, with the many seizures and arrests of the key figures of the network, well illustrates the co-operation between law enforcement and prosecution services. In addition to Eurojust and Europol, national police, customs, experts and the private sector co-operated in joint actions. Thanks to the initial analytical work, the exchange of information and the close co-operation between Eurojust and Europol, it became clear that apparently isolated offences could be linked to a worldwide organised criminal network .”