SPANISH police were involved in an international operation that led to more than 4.7 million counterfeit products seized.
Investigators across 18 countries also had 16 400 social media accounts suspended and 3 300 websites selling fake goods were closed in the EU-wide operation called Aphrodite II.
The online fake goods marketers were selling a large variety of counterfeit items including clothes and accessories, sports equipment, illegal IPTV set-top boxes, medicines, spare car parts, mobile phones, miscellaneous electronic devices and components, perfumes and cosmetics.
The operation led to the arrest of more than 30 suspects and reported 110 others to respective judicial authorities.
A select number of suspects are allegedly part of two distinct criminal networks responsible for producing and trafficking counterfeit products online. Several investigations are still on going.
Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3) and the Italian Finance Corps (Guardia di Finanza) coordinated the joint investigation, with cooperation from the private sector. The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) supported the activities of IPC3 with a grant.
Law enforcement agencies from Spain, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom were all involved in the operation.
According to Europol: “Criminal groups continuously abuse the communication opportunities of digital platforms such as websites, social media and instant messaging to traffic and sell counterfeit products. The exponential growth of Internet platforms has also affected the development of online marketplaces that are considered as alternative retail channels. These new markets also take advantage of social channels to perpetrate illicit activities.
“Law enforcement, supported by the private sector, is therefore extending its response to online trafficking of counterfeit products. To counter the threat, Europol is examining the scale of the problem, gathering evidence and monitoring social media and sales platforms.”
The law agency added: “Fake products sold on social media can be extremely dangerous. Lacking any quality control and not complying legal norms, fake toys, medicines, body care products, fake spare car parts, inks and material used to produce imitation luxury products and clothes can be harmful to consumer health.”