Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Saturday, 13 February 2010

Italian police seize tonnes of counterfeits

By Duncan Kennedy
BBC News, Rome

Fake counterfeit Gucci watches
Top labels like Gucci are common in Italy and stopping the trade is unlikely

Police in Italy have made a major seizure of counterfeit goods.

The haul included clothes and leather goods, which officers say are of amazing quality.

The fake goods were discovered in eight industrial hangars east of Rome.

They included clothes, shoes, leather goods and other accessories. Police say they could have come from Asia.

Italy has had a series of counterfeit scams in recent years.

It is believed that the items would have been given Italian designer labels and sold in markets and on the streets of Italy's cities, where fake handbags, wallets and belts can be seen around tourist attractions.

It is the latest in a massive haul of counterfeit goods in recent years. Italy's national retailers association say around 6.9bn euros (£6bn) of fake products are sold each year.

Among other elaborate scams in recent years has been the case of two Japanese businessmen who were stopped on a train carrying fake bonds worth 97bn euros.

Then there was the giant counterfeit olive oil deception. The batches were actually concoctions of sunflower oil mixed with industrial chlorophyll.

There have been calls for a counterfeit tsar to be appointed to stop the rackets which cost legitimate businesses so much.

But in a country where top class labels like Gucci, Bulgari and Armani are so common, stopping the trade is, in practical terms, highly unlikely, especially when so many buyers are eager to snap up the fakes.

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