378 arrests and almost 2 million fake items seized during nine-month coordinated operation
Between March and December 2022, Europol coordinated the first EU-wide operation against the illegal trade in counterfeit apparel, footwear and accessories. Operation Fake Star, led by the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) and co-led by the Hellenic Police (Ελληνική Αστυνομία) with support from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), involved 17 countries in total.
Over the course of the operation, national authorities checked commercial and industrial areas, flea markets, tourist areas, warehouses, shops, and other similar places where counterfeit goods can be sold. The involved authorities carried out also operational activities in ports, pop-up shops and small e-commerce parcel distribution companies.
Operation Fake Star in a nutshell
- 1 956 607 counterfeit clothes, shoes and garments seized;
- Roughly EUR 87 million estimated total value of counterfeit goods seized;
- 258 brands found to be infringed;
- 3 921 inspections carried out;
- 646 judicial cases opened;
- 1 311 administrative cases opened;
- 378 individuals arrested.
Sports and luxury goods at the top of the seized counterfeits list
The results of the operation report on very important seizures of sports and luxury goods: millions of such counterfeits, intended for sale on the European market, were seized during the operational activities. The investigations confirmed expectations that criminals are using social media networks to advertise counterfeit products. Different merchants have been seen posting pictures of available counterfeit goods, mostly clothing and footwear, on their business social media pages and profiles.
However, this is not a new trend – the trade in counterfeit goods online has significantly increased in the past few years. The market share of e-commerce platforms has risen in the recent years, which also applies for advertisements of counterfeit goods on the social media platforms. On the other hand, the operational results show that conventional offline marketplaces remain an important reality and deserve the attention of law enforcement. The seized counterfeit goods originated mainly from outside of Europe, with China, Hong Kong, Türkiye and Vietnam being predominant source locations. As for the transport, the counterfeits entered the EU by land or by sea. In addition to the trafficking of counterfeits, authorities detected other criminal activities carried out by the identified criminal networks.
Strong cooperation to boost the fight against counterfeits
Europol facilitated the exchange of information, and provided operational coordination and analytical support. During several action days, Europol deployed analysts to enable the real-time exchange of information and cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases to provide leads to investigators in the field.
Europol’s IPC3 (Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition) which supported the investigation is a project to combat intellectual property crime co-funded by the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office). In February 2020, the EUIPO also hosted the kick-off meeting at its headquarters in Alicante, Spain.
- EU Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
- Third-party countries: Serbia, Ukraine and United Kingdom.