Millions of pounds worth of fake designer clothing, handbags, shoes, jewellery, perfumes and watches were among the items seized by Rochdale Borough Council Trading Standards over the past two months in a major operation to disrupt a criminal counterfeit goods operation.
The counterfeit items were found in storage containers across Rochdale following routine inspections of shops selling illegal tobacco, cigarettes and vapes. During an inspection in the Heywood area, officers noticed two men behaving suspiciously while loading items into a storage container.
When questioned by officers, it emerged that the men were connected to a further 10 containers located around the Greater Manchester borough. A search ensued, revealing approximately 60,000 items with a retail value of about £9m.
A subsequent investigation by Rochdale’s Trading Standards team revealed a local trader was involved in a nationwide distribution network, dispatching 300 to 500 parcels per day. The team intercepted some of the parcels, which were found to contain counterfeit goods.
The scale of the operation quickly became apparent when a further 11 pallets were intercepted in just one evening. It was later discovered that shipments of 11 containers had been going out six days a week for a significant period of time. The street value of these counterfeit items was calculated to be around £65m per year.
Rochdale Trading Standards and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) found the parcels were being shipped to eight industrial units, each containing more counterfeit items. Some of the units were operating as badging factories and distribution hubs.
All the items were seized at these sites with assistance from the police, PIPCU, Lighthouse Security and Manchester City Council Trading Standards team. The seized items filled three 40-f00t containers, with an estimated retail value of £15m.
Councillor Neil Emmott, leader of Rochdale Borough Council, said: “Our Trading Standards team need to be highly commended for their tremendous efforts. They have worked above and beyond their normal daily duties to physically seize counterfeit items worth millions of pounds and disrupted a counterfeit network worth over £65m per year.
“What people may not realise is that apart from often being dangerous and always inferior, these goods are funding organised crime. These traders do not pay taxes, maybe illegally claiming benefits and put genuine local traders who abide by the rules, out of business. You may think you have bagged a bargain, but by funding organised crime you have assisted crime gangs who are responsible for forced labour, drugs, human trafficking, prostitution and child labour.”