Police warning over fake electrical goods scam

Police warned today that thousands of British consumers may have been caught up in a globe-spanning multi-million pound fake electrical goods scam backed by Italian gangsters.

Investigators suspect tens of thousands of pounds worth of counterfeit power tools and clothing imported from China have been sold by door-to-door salesmen across the country.



They said the cheap imitations, including electricity generators, power drills and chainsaws, did not comply with any European safety standards and could potentially be deadly.



Police said the transportation and distribution of the goods was co-ordinated by an organised crime gang based in Naples which made millions of pounds in profit over several years.



News of the racket came today as police in seven countries across Europe, including Britain, swooped on suspected gang members and properties used to stash the products.



Specialist anti-mafia prosecutors arrested seven people in Naples and seized assets worth more than £10 million, including almost £4 million in cash held at banks and safety deposit boxes.



Action also took place in the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Sweden and Spain, all co-ordinated by international agencies Europol and Eurojust.



In Britain a property suspected of being used as a satellite base by gang members was searched in Edinburgh.



Benoit Godart, who led the operation for Europol, said no-one was arrested at the property, but paperwork and other evidence was seized that would contribute towards the overall case.



He said: "We collected some evidence that will be of interest to the fraud investigation which is led by colleagues in Italy."



Mr Godart, a specialist in intellectual property crime, said the Edinburgh property probably served as a base for activities across Scotland and south of the border.



The raids were the latest stage in a two-year investigation in which 60 people have been arrested and 800 tonnes of counterfeit products worth more than £11 million seized during searches at 143 warehouses.



Police said the fake power tools were very profitable, with a generator costing around £30 to make in China selling for up to £400. A genuine product could cost up to £1,100.



Other countries involved include Belgium, Australia, Iceland and Finland and brands targeted include Honda, Husqvarna, Stihl, Hitachi and Bosch.



Rob Wainwright, head of Europol, said: "Europol is committed to defending European citizens from the threats posed by these and other serious criminal activities."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor