More than 30 people have been arrested and 4.7 million counterfeit products confiscated as part of an EU-wide raid against the trade in fake goods, Europol announced on Thursday.
Another 110 suspects were reported to the respective authorities in 18 EU countries where the gang operated. The gang sold a variety of counterfeit goods including, among other things, clothes, sports equipment, medicines, mobile phones and electronic devices.
The fake goods were sold on online platforms and on social media, resulting in the closure of 16,470 social media accounts and 3,300 websites on which the gang marketed and sold the products.
Europol’s Coordinated Anti-crime Intellectual Property Coalition (IPC3) and the Italian Guardia di Finanza – which specialises in white-collar crime – coordinated the investigation.
Law enforcement agencies from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom were also involved in the operation, as was the European Union Intellectual Property Office.
According to Europol, social media and digital platforms are increasingly being used to trade counterfeit products.
“Sellers can advertise counterfeit goods through overt social media posts – with photos of the product and price – or through hidden links to other marketplaces located outside the EU.
In the latter case, details of the transaction are arranged through other communication channels such as instant messaging applications or even by telephone under different names. Couriers deliver the packages while the payment is made with prepaid cards, money transfer companies or other forms of electronic payment and web-based services,” Europol said in a statement
“Fake products sold on social media can be extremely dangerous. Lacking any quality control and not complying legal norms, fake toys, medicines, body care products, fake spare car parts, inks and material used to produce imitation luxury products and clothes can be harmful to consumer health,” Europol added.