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More than five tonnes of counterfeit products of exclusive brands seized from a distribution and sales network in the Canaries

Combined operation of the Tax Agency and the National Police

  • This is the largest seizure of counterfeit goods of international brands ever recorded in Europe.
  • The operation has resulted in 17 arrests, the search of 14 bazaars, four warehouses and three homes, and the seizure of 70,000 euros in cash, three vehicles and a volume of counterfeit goods, which, according to the estimation of specialised experts, could be worth more than 300 million euros.
  • The organisation operated from the islands of Tenerife and Fuerteventura, acquiring the counterfeit material mainly in the Cobo Calleja industrial estate in Madrid.

September 20, 2022.- Customs Surveillance officers from the Tax Agency, in a joint operation with agents from the National Police, have seized more than five tonnes of counterfeit products of exclusive brands from a distribution network operating in the Canary Islands.This is the largest seizure of counterfeit goods of international brands ever recorded in Europe in an operation that resulted in 17 arrests, the search of 14 bazaars, four warehouses and three homes, and the seizure of 70,000 euros in cash and three vehicles.The seized items, according to the estimation of specialised experts, could be worth more than 300 million euros.

The investigations began after learning of the existence of several shops on the island of Tenerife, allegedly dedicated to the sale of counterfeit goods, which had a common distributor, based in the province of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, specifically in Fuerteventura, who was at the head of a criminal structure dedicated to the sale and distribution of counterfeit material.

In the course of the joint investigation, the EUROPOL National Central Unit was also informed of these facts.

The police operation, known as 'Django', culminated in the dismantling of a criminal organisation specialised in the large-scale distribution and marketing of counterfeit products of exclusive brands that operated on the islands of Tenerife and Fuerteventura.The organisation acquired the counterfeit material mainly in the Cobo Calleja industrial estate in Madrid, and marketed its products especially in tourist areas, taking advantage of the presence of a large population with short periods of residence in the country.

The start of the investigation

The operation was initiated in September 2021 by the Economic and Fiscal Crime Unit of the Provincial Judicial Police Brigade of the Provincial Police Station of the National Police of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.The unit became aware of the existence of a wholesale outlet for counterfeit leather goods in the south of Tenerife.Surveillance and monitoring work led to the location of the person in charge of this establishment, observing how he sold these products to various individuals, both for street sales and for sale in bazaars.

Subsequently, the investigation was carried out with the parcel delivery companies and it was determined that the shipments came from Fuerteventura, and that several Chinese nationals were involved in the organisation's leadership.

After this, the Customs Surveillance Service joined the operation, and it was determined that there were numerous products in Customs in the name of the person responsible for the distributor in Fuerteventura, and a detailed monitoring of his activity was carried out.From Fuerteventura, the leader of the network sent products to other points on the island and to Tenerife, where his contact distributed and marketed them on the island through his businesses.

The investigation was brought before the Juzgado de Instrucción number 4 of Arona, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is investigating the case.

Modus operandi

Investigators have established the existence of a criminal network that acted as a perfectly structured organisation, in which three levels can be distinguished:the head of the organisation, dedicated to the reception of counterfeit material and its distribution in the archipelago;a second tier, with supply and distribution functions;and a third level that acquired counterfeit material from the head of the organisation - and in some cases from the second level - to market it directly in their businesses.

The organisation's leadership acquired the counterfeit material mainly from the Cobo Calleja industrial estate, located in Fuenlabrada (Madrid), and secondarily directly from China.The merchandise was sent to this top figure by sea and once it arrived in the Canary Islands, it was delivered to him via private parcel delivery companies, mainly to his warehouse in Fuerteventura and sometimes even to his own home.

Once the merchandise had been accumulated in the warehouse, it was distributed to the different establishments in the archipelago, as well as to other dealers linked to the group who, in addition to selling directly to the consumer, also distributed to other businesses.

Large simultaneous device

Given the magnitude of the operation, in mid-June, it became necessary to set up a large-scale operation, coordinated by the Provincial Judicial Police Brigade of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the Customs Surveillance Operational Unit of the same province.

This operation, carried out on the islands of Fuerteventura and Tenerife, involved the presence of almost one hundred National Police officers from different units of the Canary Islands National Police Headquarters, as well as Customs Surveillance from the Tax Agency and the support of the canine guide unit of the Local Police of the capital of Tenerife.

In total, simultaneous entries and searches were carried out in three homes, four warehouses and 14 bazaars or establishments on both islands, where more than 70,000 euros in cash and three vehicles were seized, sealing more than five tonnes of counterfeit products of well-known brands, including handbags, a variety of leather goods, clothing, sunglasses, watches and various fashion accessories.According to the estimation criteria of the specialised experts, the seized material is currently valued at more than 300 million euros.

As a result of these actions, 17 people were arrested for the alleged crimes of belonging to a criminal organisation, against industrial property and money laundering.Once the organisation has been dismantled, investigations into money laundering are continuing.

So far, more than 250,000 objects have been seized and valued at more than 222 million euros, pending the analysis of the material contained in two warehouses, the entry and search of which is pending and already authorised by the judge.

Film of the operation (go to the following website to download the video):

https://we.tl/t-gdl8OIhEVa