Oil fakes put out of business

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 January, 1996, 12:00am

SELLERS of fake oil products packaged in cans bearing trademarks such as Shell, Mobil and Esso, appear to have ceased operations after a series of joint police and anti-counterfeit raids last week.

The sleepy backwater town of Zengcheng, Guangdong, about 11/2 hours north of Shenzhen by highway, has been the target of a government crackdown on illegally produced lubricants, anti-freeze and brake oil.

Accusations have also been bandied about that illegal operators were receiving protection from various government officials.

It was reported in the Guangzhou press that anti-counterfeit officials and police raided five 'underground factories' last Wednesday and found millions of fake items such as lubricant and anti-freeze.

Yet all appeared quiet yesterday in Xiaolu, a crumbling suburb about 10 kilometres away from Zengcheng, with only a few signs posted to advertise the availability of oil products.

There were no customers and the few men inside the shops occupied themselves by playing mahjong.

Apart from the counterfeit production, according to one Zengcheng vendor, one of the methods illegal producers employed to escape detection was to re-use screwtop cans of brand name oil products.

Producers would collect, clean and then re-fill the containers with their own cruder concoctions, which were not produced to even one-tenth the specifications of brand name goods, said the vendor.

Other legitimate vendors of oil products said that the scam, which had been running for almost three years, had cut into their business because of the lower prices charged by the illegal producers.

'Some people want to buy cheaper oil products and there is not much that we can do,' said an employee at the Guangming Oil Products Company.

'For a regular can of the real thing, we retail at 50 yuan [HK$46.50] but the illegal stuff may come by for as little as 20 yuan.' She said that she had learned from other vendors that the police and the Public Security Bureau had performed their task efficiently, and she was not aware of any illegal vendors still selling the fakes.

In Xinchiao Road, about 10 minutes walk from the centre of the town, there were several shops lining both sides of the thoroughfare which specialised in automobile and motorcycle repairs, in addition to suppliers of spare parts.

Several shops displayed cans of Mobil and Shell oil products in their front windows or stacked neatly by doorways.

Some of the cans appeared dented slightly but nevertheless appeared quite new.

In the wake of the raids, one Zengcheng merchant said: 'We know about the raids but we are not sure where the goods are available.

'But this is China. This sort of thing happens all the time.'