ugg mens boots sale The Trail of Misery Behind the Designer Knock
Lusher writes: “This is how buying fake designer goods can help modern slavery and gangsters whose other activities involve ‘a pump action shotgun, dum dum bullets and amphetamines.'”
Inside premises raided by Police and Trading Standards in the Strangeways area of Manchester on December 12. (photo: Manchester City Council)
How buying fake designer goods can help modern slavery and gangsters whose other activities involve ‘a pump action shotgun, dum dum bullets and amphetamines’
ome call it “Counterfeit Street”, others “the fakes capital of the UK”.
In a cluster of backalleys off Bury New Road, in the shadow of Manchester’s Strangeways prison, legitimate businesses struggle to exist alongside shops where knock off Louis Vuitton costs 23, where you can buy a fake Mulberry handbag for 18, not 795, and much, much more besides.
Here, in probably the biggest hub of the UK’s multibillion pound fakes trade, the story goes that one undercover investigator was told: “Give me 24 hours and I can get you anything you want.”
In a more sophisticated version of the “loveable” ‘Del Boy’ type shutting his suitcase and scarpering the moment he sees Old Bill, a network of spotters use burner phones to tell everyone the cops are coming, and key fobs to bring shop shutters down at the touch of a button.
The customers never complain when as a result they are shut inside shops for hours until the law has left the area. In fact, those who have worked this patch for a while recall raids where passersby have gathered round the police and demanded: “Why are you bothering them? What harm are they doing?”
One possible answer came during a raid on 11 shops on 12 December, conducted by police, trading standards, HMRC and perhaps tellingly the Immigration Service.
Three shipping containers were filled with seized fake clothing, handbags, trainers, perfumes and jewellery, with a total value in excess of 3m.
But perhaps the most significant find was in a small upstairs back room Here were thousands of designer labels, and a machine for attaching them to goods that would be transformed from “blank” to “brand”.
It was a sign that perhaps fakes were being made abroad, imported without any branding to get them past Customs officers looking for counterfeits, and then taken to Manchester to be finished with the all important designer labels in conditions that, the investigators feared, might sometimes recall a developing world sweatshop.
No one was found beside the finishing machine the Strangeways shops, often connected to each other by back stair and passageways,
can resemble a rabbit warren with dozens of escape routes.
But elsewhere in Britain, people have been found doing the finishing.
One Leicester trading standards officer told The Independent of entering a cluttered, fire risk of a workshop where, under a mouldy ceiling, he found three frightened undocumented immigrants sewing Henry Lloyd, Adidas and Ralph Lauren logos onto about 6,000 polo shirts.
They were, he discovered, being paid 70p a day and were too terrified to say who was putting them to work.
This, the investigators now fear, may also be the true face of the Strangeways and the UK’s fakes trade.
In the past six months, police have seen immigrants from such war torn countries as Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan finding work in the Strangeways area, while being told of people getting paid just 20 30 a day.
What exactly did some spotters mean when they said in interview that if they didn’t get the shutters down quickly enough, they would “get into a huge amount of trouble”?
Why were two large knives also discovered in the 12 December raid?
When one spotter, in his thirites from Iraq, guardedly revealed recently that he was working to “pay off debts”, was he talking about money owed to people who trafficked him here to work in the fakes trade? It seems that remains a possibility.
“There is a recognition that actually there is something darker happening here than simply the crime of people selling knock off goods,” admitted one official involved in the Strangeways investigations.
“What we are starting to hear, about arrangements for people working here, how little they are paid, if they are paid at all There are modern slavery concerns.”
“We have a lot of work to do to understand things more,” the official added, “But I can’t see how people working in these types of conditions could possibly be happy about them.”
It is a concern with which Detective Sergeant Kevin Ives of The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), run by City of London Police, is increasingly familiar.
“This is not a victimless crime,” he says. “When you are sitting there on Christmas Day feeling pleased with the fake item that has been bought on the cheap, you may have caused a lot of people a lot of misery.