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1.2 Million Counterfeit Goods, 130 Million Cigarettes Seized In EU-led Operation

Over 1.2 million counterfeit goods and 130 million cigarettes were seized during an international joint customs operation coordinated by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

The Operation, code-named REPLICA, targeted the import of counterfeit goods by sea. Under the coordination of OLAF, customs authorities carried out targeted physical or X-ray controls on several hundred selected containers. These checks uncovered a wide array of counterfeit goods including cigarettes, perfumes, car and bicycle spare parts, toys, fashion accessories and electric devices. The seizures of cigarettes alone prevented the loss of EUR25 million in customs duties and taxes, the European Commission said. The amount of cigarettes seized is equivalent to what 17 000 people, smoking a packet a day, would consume in a year. In terms of overall seizures in this Operation, the value of the equivalent genuine products is estimated to be over EUR65 million.

Algirdas Šemeta, EU Commissioner for customs and anti-fraud, said "Operation REPLICA shows what can be achieved when customs authorities, international partners and industry work together to fight fakes. Counterfeit goods defraud consumers, harm legitimate businesses and cause huge losses to public revenues."

Operation REPLICA was organised within the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) framework as part of joint efforts in the fight against counterfeit goods. The results of the operation were shared at a debriefing meeting held in Brussels last week.

During the operational phase of REPLICA, OLAF facilitated the cooperation between all the EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland, 11 international partners, Interpol, Europol and the World Customs Organisation. The operation was coordinated by OLAF with the support of a team of eleven liaison officers from the EU Member States and China, all working together in Brussels. It was the first time that a Chinese Customs Liaison Officer worked from the operational headquarters at OLAF. A Virtual Operational Coordination Unit (VOCU) - a brand new secure communication channel for such joint customs operations - was used to channel the flow of incoming information.

Most international EU ports were also involved during the two-week period, providing support for checking the containers. The exchange of information in real time allowed all the experts involved to identify the suspect flows of counterfeit goods out of ordinary commercial transactions.

by RTT Staff Writer

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