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

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic