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Products worth millions seized

Action taken as part of fourth phase of Operation Jasper, the biggest enforcement operation ever seen in the UK to combat counterfeiting and piracy on social media

Operation Jasper 4, an initiative of the National Markets Group (NMG) saw 83 Trading Standards Authorities join forces with Police, government departments and industry brand representatives to identify and take action against criminals operating on Facebook and Instagram.

Over the last few weeks the enforcement activity, coordinated by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team using evidence provided by a range of NMG partners, has resulted in 12 separate raid actions across England and Wales in areas such as Liverpool, Leicester, Grimsby, Caerphilly and Torfaen with another 19 investigations on-going. In addition, over 4,000 infringing images were removed from the Facebook platform by industry representatives.

During the operation, officers seized tens of thousands of counterfeit and unsafe goods including dangerous cosmetics, perfumes, razor blades, electrical products and chargers as well as clothing, footwear, leather goods and tobacco products.

In a twist to previous phases, Jasper 4 also looked at the wholesale and retail operators that supply the traders on Facebook and Instagram. Bristol Fruit (Sunday) Market (BFM) and Bescot market, Walsall were identified as two of many locations where counterfeits were being sold. In early December a national Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) exercise took place on the M5 corridor led by four Welsh Trading Standards authorities (23 officers) supported by Police, Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) and brand representatives. This forms part of a concerted effort to deny rogue traders the use of UK roads.

The activities of the individuals came to light after painstaking intelligence work by NMG partners, using ANPR to track their vehicle movements, combined with information recovered from mobile phones and satellite navigation equipment taken from previous raids. The operation resulted in six commercial vehicles being seized along with thousands of counterfeit and unsafe goods heading to BFM.

On Sunday 18th December, Walsall Trading Standards, local police and brand representatives carried out raid actions on Bescot market seizing over 2000 items including an array of counterfeit and unsafe products.

Many of the seized items in these planned operations were found to be dangerous electrical items and cosmetics goods, such as counterfeit hair straighteners, and fake makeup, that if not seized could have ended up as last minute Christmas presents for children and young people. Fake goods are not subject to the stringent safety checks that genuine goods, made by legitimate businesses, must comply with. This criminal activity harms consumers, damages the economy, and threatens the livelihood of legitimate traders.

Graham Mogg, Intelligence Coordinator, Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) and Chair of the National Markets Group (NMG) said:

''The NMG promotes a true partnership approach to reducing the threat to consumers and legitimate business from the sale of counterfeit, pirated and unsafe products. When criminals infiltrate and undermine social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram consumers are put at risk of injury and harm.

“The evolution of Operation Jasper 4 in targeting the wholesale suppliers at markets and retail premises, as well as the traders operating on social media has removed tens of thousands of unsafe and other counterfeit goods from the market place.

“This joint private and public sector approach is reaping rewards and we look forward to building on that success in the New Year.''

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards said:

National Trading Standards and all our partners in the National Markets Group are working hard to disrupt the supply of dangerous counterfeit goods. This recent enforcement action is yet further evidence of the impact and success Operation Jasper is having, with products worth millions of pounds being seized and over 4,000 more images being removed from social media.

“While our work is continuing to ensure consumers are protected, I would also like to urge people to remain vigilant and report any suspected online scams to Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on: 03454 04 05 06.”