Exploiting and getting passed EU customs to import counterfeit products

Submitted by Kevin Hoda on November 20, 2014   Information Tags: , , , , , ,
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While the economy is doing okay over here in the US, many countries of the European Union never truly recovered from the 2008 financial meltdown. Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain (PIGS) being some of the hardest hits. Ireland was hit pretty hard too. Many austerity programs started for these countries to control their deficits. Cuts were all over the place, but it hit the custom workers hard.

Take for example the city of Cannes in France, were before the crisis it had 20 custom workers. How much now? Just 4. The city is home to the Calabrian mafia, a group known to be in the importing and distribution of counterfeit goods.

The European Union’s open borders is a counterfeiters paradise

This decline in the custom office budgets is almost uniform across the EU. Groups that import fake product have exploited this. Once the item gets cleared from customs, the group can move it freely anywhere in the EU bloc. There is no checks between member states. This is a dream come true to anyone who wants to sell counterfeit products. One member of the EU Parliament, Sirpa Pietikainen, has said that 99.7 of products that are imported are not checked. 


Budget shortfalls for customs

The budget for customs was a easy target for  countries that needed to cut spending. This has resulted in many problems. The port of Le Havre has only one fixed container scanner. Because of budget cuts, it is no longer in use and boats that were used to patrol the area are out of service because customs cannot afford the fuel.


Massive shortfall in seizures and customs personal 

For France, the amount of counterfeit goods seized was down 50%. They did not inspect a third of packages that came in. However this is something that has been happening before the 2008 economic crisis. In 1993, there were 22,500 French custom workers. Today, there are 16,662 workers. Europe’s economy has expanded greatly during the past 20 years, but customs has gone in the opposite direction.

“Ten years ago, 1.2 million containers a year arrived in the port of Le Havre, with 560 customs staff and three agents of the competition and anti-fraud service,” said Bertrand Vuaroqueux of the National Union of Customs Officers. “Today, it’s 2.5 million containers but fewer than 400 customs staff and no one from the anti-fraud service.”



France is in a better shape then most of the EU. Countries like Greece have a lot bigger counterfeit problem. This surge has been a result of two things. A cut to custom budgets due to how hard Greece fell, and a Chinese company has got the license to manage two ports in the country. According to reports, counterfeits at the Greek port at Athens(Piraeus) have soared.


Only one way to fix this

Installing a custom border between each country would just move the EU back a step in integration.  There is no solution to this problem other then spending more money, which won’t happen any time soon. Until that happens the EU is a easy place to import and sell counterfeit products and goods. At the way it is going, the EU may be just like China when it comes to how easy counterfeit products can move around.


So what is the best port or country to import counterfeit material in?

WikiLeaks has solved that for us.

“Our contact admitted that his seizures are only quasi-legal since the designs being counterfeited are only rarely covered by Croatian patent law. This is because of the lengthy procedure to register individual designs with Croatian authorities (often taking over a year). He explained it is impossible for an international apparel manufacturer, issuing hundreds of new products over four seasons, to comply with the letter of Croatian law on registration of designs.


In many ways, Croatian law enforcement is outmatched by organized crime, the Nike rep explained.


“[T]he smugglers adapt quickly to avoid his interference. There have been recent cases of shipments of ‘blank’ shoes, with a courier bringing in suitcases full of the famous Nike ‘swoosh’ later on.…


“Croatia also struggles with a legal and law-enforcement capacity that is often lacking or outmatched. This is especially true along the Bosnian border, where understaffed Croatian units face smugglers with years of experience in trafficking of goods; experience in many cases honed during the Yugoslav wars, when smuggling was a matter of life or death.”

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