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15 May 2014

Hundreds of raids across South America net fake goods worth USD 27 million

Organized crime targeted in INTERPOL-coordinated operation

LYON, France – More than 600 raids carried out across South America in an INTERPOL-coordinated operation have led to the seizure of fake goods worth some USD 27.4 million, with nearly 800 people placed under investigation.

Police and customs officers from 10 countries took part in Operation Jupiter VI, aimed at disrupting the organized crime networks behind the production and distribution of counterfeit goods and illicit trade throughout the region and beyond.

Key interventions included the identification and closure of an illegal workshop in Paraguay which produced counterfeit clothes, toys and shoes worth an estimated USD 8 million, and an illegal warehouse in Bolivia which re-packaged and distributed out-of-date wheat, flour and rice.

As with previous Jupiter operations, by far the largest number of goods seized during the two-week (1 – 15 April) operation were taxable commodities such as fuel, tobacco products and alcoholic drinks.

During Jupiter VI, the illicit trade in fuel was identified as a growing trend, with raids carried out on the Ecuador-Peru border and seizures made in Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay. In addition to recovering 20,000 litres of fuel, police also seized custom-made equipment to syphon fuel from trucks, as well as vehicles which had been altered for smuggling.

Large quantities of alcoholic drinks – including 1,000 litres of whisky in one seizure alone – and tobacco were also recovered, with 2.8 million packets of cigarettes worth an estimated USD 4.7 million seized. One truck stopped at the Chile-Argentina border was discovered to be smuggling tobacco products worth USD 1 million.

Among some 3.1 million items seized throughout the operation were fake television satellite encoders, watches, car parts, food and counterfeit 2014 World Cup memorabilia in addition to genuine arms and ammunition.

With millions in profits to be made from counterfeiting and illicit trade, the organized crime groups behind these large-scale operations do not hesitate to use force against the officers carrying out raids and seizures.

Michael Ellis, Head of INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods and Counterfeiting (TIGC) unit which coordinated the operation, praised the commitment and bravery of the law enforcement officials in the field, and sometimes in the firing line.

“The success of these operations is due to the dedication of the national law enforcement agencies involved and the support provided by their governments,” said Mr Ellis.

“If our joint efforts to turn back this crime are to have longer-term effects we also need the support of the public who need to be aware that buying fake or illicitly traded goods does not get them a bargain. They are potentially risking their health and funding organized crime networks which are often involved in other serious crimes including human and drug smuggling,” added Mr Ellis.

Operation Jupiter VI was conducted under the auspices of INTERPOL’s Turn Back Crime global awareness campaign, which aims to educate society about the ways in which organized crime infiltrates our daily lives, and to assist the public in protecting themselves.

Head of the Bolivian National Police, General Walter Villarpando Moya said: “International police cooperation is a key component in the fight against organized crime and the involvement of the Bolivian National Police in Operation Jupiter VI is very beneficial to our country.

“It allows us to gain knowledge on how to tackle this type of crime and this experience can then be shared with police in every city around the country. This enables us as a national police force to provide enhanced security to our citizens, as well as those visiting on holiday or business,” added General Villarpando Moya.

The operation followed a three-day operational planning meeting at the INTERPOL Regional Bureau in Buenos Aires which brought together 60 law enforcement officers from the participating countries and private sector partners to share techniques used in different countries to combat counterfeiting and illicit trade.

“Many people are not aware of the many everyday products which are being counterfeited, and the spread over different industry sectors and volumes seized illustrates this is a serious global problem,” said Jose Manuel Fernandez Del Canto, Criminal Intelligence Officer at INTERPOL’s TIGC unit.

INTERPOL’s TIGC initiative assists police across its 190 member countries to not only target transnational crime groups but also identify the routes used in transporting illicit goods, which are often also used for human trafficking and drug smuggling.

Launched in 2004, the Jupiter series of operations has seen a steady increase in involvement by countries across the region and so far has resulted in the seizure of fake goods worth nearly USD 530 million and some 1,660 arrests.

Countries which took part in Operation Jupiter VI: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.