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Friday, 26 July, 2002, 22:00 GMT 23:00 UK
Massive haul of counterfeit goods
CD street seller in Malaysia
Many pirated CDs come from Asia

Customs officials in the European Union seized 95 million counterfeit and pirated goods last year - almost 10 times more than three years ago.

Counterfeiters' profits now come from quantity rather than quality, according to the European Commission - the executive arm of the EU.

Counterfeiters are no longer focusing on luxury goods such as watches and designer clothes, but increasingly on cheap items such as condoms, medicines and compact discs.

The European Commission is considering tougher legislation to deal with the rising tide of pirated goods.

Dangerous

It is estimated that organised crime can make more money out of a kilo of pirated compact discs than out of a kilo of cannabis.

Destruction of fake items in Thailand
Some countries are clamping down on pirated goods
No wonder that CDs, computer games and software are a fast-growing category of counterfeit goods, accounting for over 40% of the items seized in the EU last year.

But the vast majority of counterfeits are everyday articles - hundreds of thousands of boxes of condoms and chocolates, tons of shampoo and after-shave lotion.

The Commission says that a worrying trend is the mass production of counterfeit food products, ranging from olive oil to instant coffee, of drugs - such as Viagra - and spare car parts.

Some of these could be deadly, an EU official said.

Job losses

Terrorist organisations looking for funds are also getting in on the act, with al-Qaeda apparently involved in exporting counterfeit Vaseline from Dubai to Britain.

Most of the seized goods came to Europe by air and were produced in Thailand, China, Turkey, Hong Kong and the Czech Republic.

Some of the most unusual items include hats for the 2008 Olympic Games and fake licences for Congolese soccer players which could be used to smuggle in illegal immigrants.

In the autumn, the European Commission will propose tougher legislation to harmonise penalties for counterfeiters and ensure stricter enforcement of intellectual property rights.

According to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, counterfeiting accounts for up to seven percent of world trade, and has caused the loss of 200,000 jobs in Europe.

See also:

27 May 02 | Science/Nature
18 Mar 02 | N Ireland
29 Jul 01 | Business
11 Nov 98 | Single currency
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