Customs seizes HK$10 million in fake products at popular Hong Kong street market in largest counterfeit haul in years
Watches, handbags and leather goods said to have sold at Ladies Market at five to 20 per cent of genuine products’ price
A counterfeit syndicate that preyed on tourists from Europe and the US at the city’s Ladies Market has been broken up by Hong Kong customs following the arrest of 10 people and seizure of HK$10 million worth of fake products.
This was the third operation by the Customs and Excise Department on Tung Choi Street in Mong Kok this year, but it involved the largest syndicate of the three. In their previous two operations in January and August, officers nabbed 12 people and seized HK$7.5 million worth of fake goods.
After those busts, the syndicate that was nabbed on Thursday selected potential customers more carefully to avoid detection, according to Guy Fong Wing-kai of Customs’ Intellectual Property Investigation (Operations) Group.
“The gang only served tourists from Europe and America,” he said. “They did not approach locals or Asian tourists in case they were undercover customs officers.”
The syndicate sold their goods at five to 20 per cent of the genuine products’ price, he said, adding that he believed consumers were aware the goods were fakes.
Customs officers began investigating the racket after noticing counterfeiting activities along the popular shopping thoroughfare about a month ago.
An investigation revealed the syndicate sold counterfeit goods at four hawker stalls in the market and used computer tablets to show clients photos of the products.
“Some clients were taken to its upstairs showroom nearby, which was packed with about 600 counterfeit products,” Fong said, adding that four nearby flats were used as warehouses.
He noted the investigation uncovered a female ringleader who went to the mainland regularly to purchase the fake products while a male mastermind was responsible for selling them locally.
After a month-long investigation, about 90 customs officers on Thursday swooped into action and raided the four hawker stalls, the secret showroom and the four warehouses.
Seven men and three women, including the two ringleaders, were rounded up in the operation. More than 10,000 fake products were seized, including watches, handbags and leather goods.
Fong said it was customs’ largest seizure of fake products in a single operation in the past three years.
“We believe the syndicate stocked up the large amount of goods to sell during the Christmas and New Year period,” he said.
On Friday afternoon, the 10 Hongkongers, aged 24 to 38, were being held for questioning. None of them had been charged.
Fong said the department would enhance its enforcement activities against counterfeiting during the holiday season.
He reminded traders that the sale of counterfeit goods was a serious crime, carrying a maximum penalty of a HK$500,000 fine and five years in jail.
The public can report suspicious activities to customs’ 24-hour hotline on 2545 6182.