Counterfeiting is such a problem in China that it may drive away some foreign investors that manufacture designer-label goods, companies warn. They say that despite efforts by the authorities, they were still losing millions of dollars in revenues because of availability of counterfeit products. Mont Blanc president Norbert Platt said: 'Counterfeiting is a huge problem in China. China should understand that it's something that threatens our investment.' 'We recently closed a shoe shop [in China] which sold Mont Blanc-branded shoes. And we're not even producing shoes!' he said. The LVMH Fashion group, the world renowned manufacturer and retailer of fashion brands Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Celine and others, has been operating in China for 10 years. Like its business rivals, the group is hurting from the counterfeiters' operations. Despite repeated crackdowns by Chinese authorities, fake Louis Vuitton handbags can be purchased in Shenzhen shops for less than HK$100, a fraction of the HK$4,000 price for the real thing. 'The [counterfeiting] problem is huge, particularly in China,' said Hugues Witvoet, Asia-Pacific president of LVMH Fashion. 'For as long as you have strong brands, counterfeiting will always be a problem. Unscrupulous people try to copy your products and they sell them at much cheaper prices than the genuines. But they cheat their customers because the quality of their goods is not as good as the original. It's a world-wide problem which adversely affects many industries,' he said. The LVMH Fashion group's concerns are shared by Alfred Dunhill. Tim King, managing director for the firm in the Asia-Pacific region, said: 'It [counterfeiting] is absolutely a major challenge for major retailers in China. 'That is why we spend quite a lot of money on anti-counterfeiting measures,' he said. 'We check stores and work closely with the authorities to try to locate the sources of the fakes in China.' Mr King said: 'We have been locating factories producing the [counterfeit] products. But the key point is how to stop the big ones, instead of merely catching the small guys who are selling them.' Globally, legitimate product manufacturers lose an estimated US$300 billion to the counterfeiters a year, or about 5 to 8 per cent of world trade, estimates Peter Lowe, assistant director at the London-based Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau (CIB). He said counterfeiting was one of the fastest growing economic crimes in the world, threatening businesses and jobs, undermining trade relationships, scaring off vital new investments and endangering public health and safety. Joseph Simone, vice-chairman of Quality Brand Protection Committee (QBPC), representing 78 multi-national companies including Alfred Dunhill, said seizures by US and European customs authorities had indicated that China was a big source of counterfeit goods. The number and value of seizures by US and EU customs had been increasing dramatically in the last few years, he said. QBPC believes that its member companies lose up to 15 per cent of their market in China and nearby countries, which represents a potential loss of billions of US dollars a year, because of China's counterfeiters. Guangdong is the main area for counterfeiting goods, followed by Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Fujian, Mr Simone said. Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court, recently said the mainland judiciary had made special efforts to mark crimes that included counterfeiting. A crackdown on counterfeit goods would focus on the involvement of gangsters who controlled the distribution of counterfeit goods, he said. Hong Kong's custom authorities have also denied assertions that Hong Kong is a large trans-shipment point of China-made counterfeits. They admit, however, that seizures of fake goods from China, including clothes, leather goods, shoes, mobile phones and TV game accessories, reached a four-year high of HK$213.8 million last year. Seizures in the five months to May 31 amounted to HK$53.3 million. David Fong, division commander at the intellectual property intelligence and border investigation division of the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, said: 'It's unfair to describe Hong Kong as a major trans-shipment point of fake goods made in China because the counterfeiters are using many other routes.' He said the Chinese counterfeiters were frequently using ports in different provinces including Huangpu, Ningbo, Fuzhou and Xiamen, to directly export their counterfeit products to different parts of the world. They could also ship out their goods to Singapore via Shekou and Shantou, to Korea and Russia through Shenyang, Changchun and Harbin and to Pakistan from Lanzhou and Urumqi, he said. Kenn Ross, Shanghai-based senior manager at Pinkerton (China), said the problem with counterfeits had eased in the past four years, reflecting the Chinese leaders' concern with the protection of intellectual property rights as a key ingredient to the health and growth of the country's economy. The company operates 14 offices all over Asia but its largest operations are in China.