Did you happen to see a news story on the internet yesterday about an area of the UK that has been labelled the ‘knock-off’ capital of the country in a new Government report?
It certainly brought a smile to my face, not because of the efforts to close down the thriving industry in counterfeit goods but because of the name of the place: Cheetham Hill, in Greater Manchester.
Can you think of anywhere more appropriate to locate your criminal counterfeit goods business than in a place called Cheetham? After all isn’t that the aim of the trade in fakes; the idea being to cheat ‘em.
Apparently, the trade in counterfeit brands is continuing to flourish there despite a series of high-profile raids which have seen fake goods worth millions seized by the authorities, according to the Government’s Intellectual Property Office.
Now it is asking for additional funding to help Greater Manchester Police tackle what it describes as ‘widespread criminality’ in Cheetham Hill.
A series of raids was organised before Christmas when police and trading standards officers teamed up to strike at 14 shops. Those raids were a success, as goods worth £1.5 million were seized. That’s really only the small tip of a massive iceberg, however.
In 2014, a million cigarettes and 70 kilos of tobacco, all falsely purporting to be genuine brands with an estimated value of more than £5m, were seized. While, in 2013, £1m worth of fake designer clothes, handbags and footwear were confiscated. Anyone fancying a drink was in for a surprise back in 2010 when counterfeit vodka worth £250,000 was seized.
Customer demand for fake designer goods remains high, with ‘Louis Vuitton’ satchels available for £15, ‘Beats’ headphones at £5 and ‘Nike’ shirts at £20. All these are sold well below the prices charged for the genuine articles.
The report says: “It is indicative of the entrenched criminal culture of the area that the trade in counterfeit goods has continued despite regular enforcement action and high-volume seizures.
“Cheetham Hill occupies a focal point in the UK market for counterfeit goods. In addition to the significant retail trade occurring directly from premises in the area, there is also information suggesting that local wholesale operations supply counterfeit goods to online and in-person traders across the UK.”
The production, distribution, and sale of counterfeit goods has always had close links to serious organised crime, a fact often not considered by the everyday bargain-hunter or cash-strapped consumers.
The counterfeiters of Cheetham Hill are no different; they have links to serious organised crime, drug dealing and violence, says the report, but adds that the fakers are so ‘embedded’ that agencies like the police, trading standards, the brand-owners and Government departments ‘could not successfully tackle the problem’ on their own.
It’s a serious matter but the fact that the town at the centre of this cheating crimewave is called Cheetham is just too funny for words.