, Wien Customs puts a stop to Christmas market mafia: Biggest seizure from airfreight of counterfeit products ever achieved Six tonnes of fake goods with a value of EUR 5.2 million smuggled per Aircraft 

Six tonnes of fake goods with a value of EUR 5.2 million smuggled per Aircraft 

Vienna (OTS) - EUR 5.2 million – this would be the original value of the six tonnes of goods which customs officers confiscated from freight traffic at Vienna International Airport in mid-November. At the destination, however, scarcely anyone is willing to pay so much money for underwear, socks, pullovers, belts, leggings and jackets from purported luxury manufacturers; the counterfeit textiles, totalling around 30,000, were to be sold on Christmas markets.

Christmas markets as a smuggling destination

A US trading firm acquired from a Turkish trader around 30,000 articles of various designer brands. The Turkish seller had purchased them in China from various sources and then had them sent via Vietnam in a single consignment to Istanbul, with Vienna as the onward destination. In Turkey, an Austrian receiving company, a logistics service provider, had its name added to the paperwork accompanying the consignment. From Vienna, the goods were to be further distributed across Austria. This complex shipping route was used as a concealment tactic in order to make customs controls more difficult. The textiles were most likely intended for sale on various Christmas markets, according to the current status of investigations.

Fully uncovering the background, context and the middlemen involved in this complex criminal structure created by of an international group of perpetrators now forms the subject of further investigations. Via requests for international judicial assistance, the cooperation of the relevant third countries is also being sought for this purpose. The rights holders have been informed and, for their part, now have the opportunity to Institute criminal and civil proceedings. They have now also consented to prompt destruction of the respective counterfeit goods.

Six tonnes of counterfeits comprising 30,000 articles, with over 50 brand owners suffering infringement

With the right instincts and considerable efforts, the customs officers at Eisenstadt Customs Office at Vienna Airport were able to achieve the biggest seizure of counterfeit products ever made in relation to airfreight in Austria. Based on rigorous analysis and the professional application of risk management procedures, the consignment came to be targeted by customs officers. In addition to meticulous precision in undertaking photographic documentation, the check required great patience and sustained commitment on the part of the officers. After three days of processing the six tonnes of freight, it was then possible to put a figure on the overwhelming result: approximately 30,000 articles infringing the rights of over 50 brand owners were identified and confiscated by customs.

The counterfeit textiles cover everything which is perhaps not always hoped for under the Christmas tree, but which is in any event often given. They included, for example:

8,747 pairs of socks;

7,140 pairs of underwear;

3,441 pullovers;

2,888 belts;

1,536 pairs of leggings; and

1,180 jackets.

The brand names infringed included leading lifestyle brands and designers such as Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Nike, Louis Vuitton, Lacoste, Gucci, Philipp Plein and Adidas, plus many more. 

Dangerous fakes  

"In the period before Christmas, significant trading sales are achieved at Christmas markets," affirms Gerhard Marosi, product piracy expert at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance. "Thus it is all the more important for visitors to these markets to pay attention to what they buy and not allow themselves to be deceived by apparent bargains!" 

"Bear in mind that an item can perhaps only be offered at such a reasonable price for the reason that it is not an original product but a cheap, low-quality fake. Where possible, therefore, you should only buy products from reputable providers! Branded goods in particular should only be bought from established, reputable companies, so that unpleasant surprises can be avoided!" advises Gerhard Marosi. 

During the pre-Christmas period, historically, the Austrian customs administration has recorded significant increases in seizures of fake products. It is alarming in this regard that consumers are put at risk by such counterfeit products. Many of them present a serious threat to consumer health. Tempted by the chance to snap up a supposed bargain, such risks are unfortunately often not taken sufficiently seriously. Yet the potential damage which fake products may cause can in no manner be simply dismissed. Allergies caused by cheap, toxic colours in fake textiles, eye damage from imitation sunglasses without UV protection, and skin irritation caused by fake skincare products, are just some examples of what are often serious threats presented by counterfeit products. 

"This major seizure in particular makes clear that product piracy cannot be trivialised as a minor offence," continues Marosi. "Not only consumers, but also traders, manufacturers and, furthermore, competition, trade and investment need to be protected against its impact." 

In the area of clothing and shoes, sales losses resulting from counterfeits amount to EUR 587 million per year in Austria alone, according to empirical records of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Product piracy thus also leads to direct economic effects on Austria. Sales losses and revenue losses distort competition and, not least, endanger domestic jobs. 

According to information provided by Flughafen Wien AG, the volume of airfreight in the Airport cargo area totalled 215,921 tonnes in 2018. "By far the overwhelming proportion of such consignments is legal, imported and exported by legitimate companies. Here, the immense challenge faced by customs is to identify, by appropriate risk-oriented controls, those consignments originating from illegal schemes, and withdrawing these from circulation. The customs officers working here at Vienna Airport succeed in this over and over again with bravura, as the present example shows," declares Marosi, gratified at the outstanding success achieved.