Largest ever counterfeiting syndicate smashed

27 Jul 2005

Hong Kong Customs yesterday (July 26) smashed the largest ever syndicate of counterfeit goods, resulting in the seizure of about $62.5 million worth of counterfeit clothes and leather goods.

The Department will for the first time apply the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance to freeze the crime proceeds of the syndicate in a trade mark infringement case. The crime proceeds of the syndicate were estimated to be about $20 million.

The success of the case demonstrated Hong Kong Customs' effective export cargo control of suspected counterfeit consignments.

Three months ago, the Customs Air Cargo Clearance System spotted a suspicious export consignment. Thereafter, extensive intelligence collection and investigations led to the interception of 42 boxes of suspected counterfeit goods destined for Japan in the airport yesterday.

Early yesterday morning, officers of Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau, Special Task Force, Financial Investigation Group, and the Computer Analysis and Response Team of the Department launched the operation codenamed "Sniper".

Customs officers raided 18 locations including Tsim Sha Tsui, To Kwa Wan, Sham Shui Po, Cheung Sha Wan and Sha Tin, covering a shop, eight companies, three warehouses, and five residential premises.

As a result, Customs officers arrested nine men and two women, aged between 21 and 48. Of them, two were the directors of a trading company in Tsim Sha Tsui, believed to be the masterminds. The two men, aged 42 and 43, will later be charged and appear in Kowloon City Magistrates' Courts for mention tomorrow (July 28).

Besides, the officers seized 157,000 pieces of counterfeit clothes and leather goods, worth about $62.5 million. Majority of the seized goods were counterfeits of a prestigious brand.

Customs investigation showed that a number of garment and trading companies in Hong Kong and a retail network in Japan were involved in the syndicated activities.

Customs believed that four Japanese buyers came to Hong Kong to select and order counterfeit clothes. Once they had confirmed the models and the quantities, the syndicate arranged to manufacture the required orders in the Mainland. The goods were conveyed to To Kwan Wan for storage, and for subsequent delivery to Japan.

To evade Customs crackdown, the syndicate opened a decent kids' apparel company in Tsim Sha Tsui.

To combat counterfeiting activities, Hong Kong Customs will continue its stringent enforcement actions and maintain close co-operation with trademark owners.

Any person who contravenes the Trade Descriptions Ordinance is liable to prosecution. The maximum penalty is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.

Ends/Wednesday, July 27, 2005

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