Christmas shoppers have been urged to be vigilant about purchasing counterfeit goods this season, with experts warning they could be funding human trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism.
According to data from KPMG, over the past two years, 39 cases involving more than £116 million of counterfeit and pirated goods have been prosecuted in the UK.
In response to the latest figures, James Maycock, forensic partner at KPMG said: “Consumers may often turn a blind eye, or consider this a victimless crime, but this shadow economy activity often directly promotes money laundering and tax evasion.”
He continued: “It can also help to fund other more serious organised criminal enterprises, including human trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism.”
A spokesperson from the Intellectual Property Office, a government body which works closely with HMRC, the UK Border Force, trading standards and the police to tackle counterfeit crime, added: “With counterfeiting and piracy continuing to damage the bottom line of UK firms, access to redress through the courts is an important tool for IP rights holders to protect their business”
KPMG is also warning that counterfeit goods such as perfumes, batteries, alcohol, tobacco and electronic products, can pose a serious health risk.
A father and son duo were recently jailed over a £3 million scam selling harmful teeth whitening kits, which left some users with chemical burns and bleeding gums.
The product which was advertised as “ideal for any age group” and popular amongst “leading dentists throughout the UK and Europe”, contained up to 110 times the allowable level of hydrogen peroxide.
KPMG’s warnings echo those made by the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu), which last week launched a social media campaign to highlight the potential fraud and health and safety risks of purchasing counterfeit goods.
Detective Inspector of Pipcu, Nick Court, said: “Since 2013, Pipcu has investigated crimes of piracy and the sale of counterfeits to a value in excess of £700 million”
“Counterfeit products are often produced by victims of forced labour and sold in bulk by organised criminals with little regard for people’s safety.
“It’s essential that shoppers buy from a reputable seller for their own peace of mind and safety.”
Consumers who believe that they have purchased counterfeit goods are advised to contact Action Fraud, their local Trading Standards office or visit the Citizens Advice website.