Customs chief warns of hard-hitting action against sellers of counterfeit goods, including at Victoria Park fair Shoppers combing the stores for new outfits to wear at Lunar New Year have been warned to make sure any brand-name clothes they buy are genuine. Customs officers say they will be on the lookout for cheats who set up bogus discount outlets to sell fake goods in the holiday period. Albert Ho Shi-king, operations commander of customs' intellectual property investigation group, said it would also send a team of 80 officers to check stalls at the Victoria Park fair and others across the city for fake products. He said past experience showed that as soon as one stall at a fair was raided, other merchants inevitably pulled fake goods from their stalls. Last year customs seized $195,200 worth of counterfeit goods at the fairs and arrested two people. 'Merchants have to display their goods at the stall and with so many people at the fairs it is stupid to sell counterfeit goods there. We can make arrests as soon as the rights holder arrives and confirms the displayed goods are fakes.' The operations chief said the department had also reminded stall owners they should be careful when buying stock and check the authenticity of any branded items they sell. The merchants were also encouraged to alert customs if they see any stalls selling fakes. During the Lunar New Year period, customs officers would be sent to busy districts such as Causeway Bay and Mongkok to stop hawkers from selling counterfeit goods, Mr Ho said. They would also launch raids at other known fake black spots such as Temple Street and Sai Yeung Choi Street. Mr Ho said besides clothing, they expected items such as lai see envelopes or toys bearing popular cartoon characters like Hello Kitty to remain the most likely target for counterfeit merchants during the Lunar New Year period. He added that over the past year customs officers had noticed counterfeit goods syndicates changing their way of operating. 'Instead of keeping a large pile of stock at one place they are now splitting up their goods to minimise their losses. They are also resorting to short-term leases when renting storage to avoid detection,' he said. 'On the retail level they have also given up on touting the actual items and are relying on photo catalogues. This enables them to use fewer people to operate the stalls, which results in fewer people being arrested.' According to customs, 506 people were arrested for counterfeit goods offences in the first 10 months of last year, a continued decreased compared with the 564 and 610 people arrested for the whole of 2004 and 2003. But, because of the increase in raids and the improved quality of fake products, there was a significant increase in the value of the seizures. The department seized almost $120 million worth of counterfeit goods in the first 10 months last year, almost triple the $43 million for the whole of 2004 and the $31 million in 2003.