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Huge three day police operation in Cheetham Hill saw £15m worth of counterfeit goods seized and seven arrests

Four raids, led by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and Greater Manchester Police, have uncovered an estimated £15 million worth of branded clothing, shoes, electricals, watches, jewellery, and perfume suspected to be counterfeit. Suspected counterfeit medication was also found and seized.

In total over 45,000 items were seized, with an estimated loss to brands of £15 million, if sold at retail price.

The joint action between the three forces, Border Force and Immigration Services, also saw seven people arrested - six for offences relating to the importation and distribution of counterfeit goods and one for intent to supply prescription drugs.

Four premises in Strangeways, Manchester, were raided by officers between Monday 19 and Wednesday 21 April 2021, in a large scale operation aimed at cracking down on the sale of counterfeit goods. The search warrants, which developed from a previous operation that involved the sale and distribution of counterfeit items, saw 60 officers and staff working together.

The investigation is still ongoing, but officers have so far seized suspected counterfeit shoes, clothing, handbags, watches, makeup, perfume, sunglasses, batteries, headphones and medication. Fake brand labels have also been seized. These are often imported separately to be sewn onto counterfeit clothing and shoes. 

Mobile phones and cash has also been seized from those arrested.

Superintendent Peter Ratcliffe, of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said:

“Selling counterfeit goods is illegal and, in the case of counterfeit electricals and medication, extremely dangerous.

“This huge three day operation, plus the number of arrests and vast amount of evidence seized, should send a strong message to other criminals involved in counterfeit goods that it won’t be tolerated.

“For the public, it is vital to remember you don’t know what other crimes you are funding when buying counterfeit goods, or the conditions those working for the criminals are conducting their business in.

“This operation showed the effectiveness of partnership working and I thank Greater Manchester Police, and our other partners involved, for all their help.”

Detective Superintendent Paul Denn from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said:

“Buying and selling counterfeit goods is not a victimless crime. As well as damaging legitimate businesses, it helps to fund organised crime, and with that often comes violence.

“Whenever we receive intelligence about illegal goods, we will always work closely with our colleagues in the City of London Police and other partners to investigate and take the appropriate action.”

Inspector Helen Hallworth, of Greater Manchester Police’s City of Manchester division, said: 

"Working in partnerships such as this is instrumental when tackling counterfeit operations, as each unit is able to bring its own precise specialisms to help achieve the most effective policing operation. City of London is the national policing lead for fraud and we welcome their involvement along with that from our other partners from the NW PIPCU unit as well as Immigration and Border Force when tackling counterfeit operations within the Greater Manchester area.

"Please be under no false illusions that the selling of counterfeit goods is a victimless crime. Selling counterfeit goods is illegal and the money made in these shops helps to fund organised crime, lining the pockets of criminals for much more sinister crimes which can have a devastating impact on our communities.

"Finally, be aware that counterfeit goods can pose a serious health risk to individuals as they have not undergone the health and safety checks that are mandatory for mainstream goods.”

 Photo by David Dixon, Wikimedia commons.