Customs net flood of fake products

SEIZURES of counterfeit products doubled in the first quarter of this year as brand-name forgers use new methods to smuggle fake goods into the territory.

Customs recorded 295 seizures between January and March worth an estimated $35.14 million. For the same period last year there were 153 seizures of good valued at $35.6 million.

Fake items confiscated included packaged rice, TV game cartridges, compact discs and cigarettes. But the most common were still leather handbags, watches, and clothes.

The Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Mr Tong Kang-sing, speaking after a Rotary Club luncheon yesterday, said they believed most of the goods were made on the mainland, where protection was lax.

He attributed the increase to greater local demand, saying: ''We have noted an increase in the number of illegal hawkers selling fake watches or clothes in such shopping centres as Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay.

''And it seems more tourists are coming here for counterfeit brand-names. An increase in the number of visitors in recent years has meant there is a bigger market and it is quite natural the counterfeiters will earn more money in Hongkong.'' He said some forgers were trying to smuggle their goods into Hongkong by covering the fake trademarks with unregistered ones.

He cited a recent case in which the trademarks on counterfeit leather handbags had been covered with unregistered trademarks and imported legally into Hongkong from the mainland.

He said officers at the border checkpoints had been alerted to this modus operandi.