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Monday, 16 September, 2002, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
Counterfeit crime at huge levels
Seizures of fake goods are up 30% on last year
Seizures of fake goods are up 30% on last year

A packed police warehouse near Lisburn in County Antrim contains evidence of the huge scale of counterfeiting in Northern Ireland, where paramilitaries and other criminal gangs have cornered a multi-million pound market.

Seizures of fake goods, like clothes and DVDs, are up 30% on last year.

One police officer who directs many crackdown operations said: "We would like to think we are making some impact, but it's a continual struggle."


Not everybody is going to buy drugs but there's a lot of temptation to buy the latest film - people need to be educated as to where this money is going

Spencer Mott Federation Against Copyright Theft
Helped by advances in technology, counterfeiting is a massive growth industry in the province that now has an international dimension.

Film titles which have not yet reached the cinemas are being sold for up to 10 at markets and car boot sales after being counterfeited in the Far East for less than 50p.

The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) represents the interests of the film industry and in Northern Ireland they are overworked.

'Problem markets'

"Northern Ireland has a unique problem in respect of the two large public markets - at Nutt's Corner near Antrim and Jonesborough in County Armagh", says FACT's director of operations Spencer Mott.

Although the police have a presence at Nutt's Corner market every Sunday, operations in the generally more hostile environment of south Armagh are more problematic.

Clothing is the other favoured product of the counterfeiters, with football shirts and designer names being manufactured with hugely varying degrees of quality.

Before Manchester United's new, official, jersey was available in the shops, copies were being sold for under 20.

Spencer Mott:
Spencer Mott: "Northern Ireland has a unique problem"
Many recent police seizures have included vast quantities of faked garments bearing the name of the High Street retailer Gap.

The company is currently working with the police and Trading Standards to address what it admits is "a very serious problem in Northern Ireland".

But what concerns the police and government most is the major profits being made by republican and loyalist paramilitary groups who are usually behind the manufacture rather than stall-front selling of the bogus products.

"It would be regarded as low risk to the paramilitaries," said one police officer.

Temptation

"There's a massive market out there compared to the drugs scene.

"Not everybody is going to buy drugs but there's a lot of temptation to buy the latest film.

"People need to be educated as to where this money is going."

Tackling paramilitary involvement in counterfeiting has become one of the main objectives of the government's Organised Crime Task Force under the Northern Ireland Office security minister Jane Kennedy.

Although prosecutions under the Trademarks Act can carry a maximum ten year prison term, many offenders instead have goods siezed and are then fined by the courts.

"It's an education process for the judiciary as much as everyone else but we need to be clear about the type of people who are behind all this," said Spencer Mott.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Julian O'Neill:
"Film titles which have not yet reached the cinemas are being sold for up to 10"

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13 Sep 02 | N Ireland
18 Sep 02 | N Ireland
16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
26 Jul 02 | Europe
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