PARIS (AP) — More than 6,000 people around the world were arrested in a two-month anti-counterfeiting sweep that netted tens of millions of dollars worth of fake shampoo in China, phony cigarettes in Turkey and bogus booze in Chile, Interpol said Thursday.
In all, the operations coordinated by the Lyon, France-based international police agency in May and June seized some 24 million fake goods worth nearly $133 million, Interpol said in a statement. The combined haul ranks among the largest operations ever conducted by the agency's special anti-counterfeiting unit, according to its director, Michael Ellis.
As part of the worldwide push against counterfeiting, the agency helped lead operations by local authorities in the Americas, Africa, Europe and, for the first time, in Asia. The Asian operation shut down 21 production sites operated by eight criminal syndicates making fake shampoo and toothpaste in southern China. More than 400 people were arrested in Thailand for hawking counterfeit clothing and DVDs, while in Vietnam police arrested an individual linked to $6 million worth of illicit electronic appliances.
Ellis highlighted the significance of the Chinese police cooperation for the first time. "We reach out to various national police forces on a regional basis. This time the police in China joined the operation, with great effect," he said.
Interpol will use intelligence gathered during the raids to look for links between criminal organizations, Ellis said. "The way the criminal networks work, there will be links. There's a factory in one country, distribution supply chain in one country, money paid in a third country," Ellis said.
Among other findings were:
— A subterranean tobacco factory in Ukraine used for making fake cigarettes
— A workshop in Lima, Peru, used to put fake brands on illicit motors from China
— 94,000 bottles of counterfeit beer in Chile
Beyond the record number of arrests for an Interpol operation, the most important achievement was the shuttering of numerous factories where fake goods are made, Ellis said. "It's like turning off the tap of the water."
Interpol said the operation highlights the potential danger that fake goods represent to consumers.
"It's about quality and expectations. You're buying a particular electrical component part, you have trust, because it's a brand you know and respect," Ellis said. "But that product could in fact be dangerous or defective. It's misusing trust of the brands."
Follow Greg Keller on Twitter @Greg_Keller