Gangsters cash in on toy craze

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FAKE TOYS at the top of the Christmas best-seller list are being sold to fund organised crime, police said yesterday.

Counterfeit Beanie Babies, and Furbies - burping, farting, furry creatures - have been seized and could have links with crime gangs in Poland, Turkey, Italy and Indonesia exploiting the demand for presents by selling often sub-standard fakes, raising cash to fund other illegal activities. This year fake Beanie Baby soft toys worth pounds 1m have been seized in the UK. There is a limited production period for each Beanie Baby character, which makes many into collectors' items and pushes up the value for counterfeiters.

The National Criminal Intelligence Service's Interpol London office urged shoppers to go to reputable retailers and to buy only those goods with the marks of authentic products to ensure that they were not helping criminals.