Between March and December 2022, Europol organised the first EU-wide operation against the illegal trade of counterfeit clothing, footwear and accessories, resulting in 378 arrests and nearly 2 million counterfeit items seized.
Operation Fake Star, which involved seventeen countries in total, was also supported by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and led by the Spanish National Police and the Hellenic Police (Ελλληνική Αστυνομία).
During the operation, the various authorities searched commercial and industrial zones, markets, tourist areas, warehouses, shops and other similar places where counterfeit products can be sold. The police involved also carried out operational activities in ports, various shops and small e-commerce parcel distribution companies:
- 1,956,607 counterfeit garments, shoes and accessories
- An estimated total value of approximately 87 million euros of counterfeit goods seized
- 258 trademarks infringed
- 3,921 inspections carried out
- 646 open court cases
- 1,311 administrative cases opened
- 378 people arrested
The operation yielded significant outcomes, with notable seizures of counterfeit sports and luxury goods. Millions of these counterfeit items, destined for the European market, were seized during the operational activities. Investigations confirmed expectations that criminals are using social media to advertise all kinds of counterfeit products. Different retailers have been seen posting images of available counterfeit items, mainly clothing and footwear, on their companies’ social media pages and profiles.
However, this is not a new trend: the online trade in counterfeit goods has significantly increased in recent years. The market share of e-commerce platforms has increased in recent years, which also applies to counterfeit product advertisements on social media platforms.
Conversely, the operational findings indicate that traditional offline marketplaces continue to be a significant presence and require law enforcement’s attention.
The counterfeit products seized came mainly from outside Europe, with China, Hong Kong, Turkey and Vietnam being the predominant places of origin. As for transportation, the counterfeits entered the European Union by land or sea. Aside from the trafficking of counterfeit goods, authorities identified additional criminal activities being conducted by the identified criminal networks.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided operational coordination and analytical support throughout the process. During several days of action, Europol deployed analysts to enable real-time information exchange and cross-check operational information against Europol databases to provide leads to investigators on the ground.
Europol’s IPC3 (Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition), which supported the research, is a project to combat intellectual property crime co-funded by the EUIPO.