A multi-million pound conspiracy to manufacture, import and sell counterfeit goods has been unmasked thanks to Greater Manchester Police.
Officers working under the umbrella of Operation Bank, based in Stretford, seized thousands of pounds worth of fake clothing, shoes and watches which - if genuine - would have been worth £10m.
The counterfeit goods themselves could have been sold for more than £500,000.
On 1 February 2013, the gang at the heart of this criminal conspiracy have been sentenced at Minshull Street Crown Court.
- Mahmood Shah (born 17/10/1968) of Hilton Crescent, Prestwich and Abdul Jalil (born 03/03/1978) of Duffield Court, Brennan, Close, were all convicted of conspiracy to defraud following a trial.
- Sarwari Dlague (born 01/01/1980), of Ballater Walk, Cheetham Hill; Agha Khan (born 01/06/1985), of Ballater Walk, Cheetham Hill; Taiba Parsa (born 15/04/1986) of Drake Street, Rochdale and Ayesha Sarwary (born 15/10/1982) of Alexandra Road, Manchester, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud at an earlier hearing.
Dlague was sentenced to three years in prison, Khan to 12 months in prison, Parsa to community service, Sarwary to community service, Shah was jailed for two years and Jalil to 12 months prison, suspended for 18 months
The gang were responsible for importing counterfeit goods from places such as China to business premises known as The Late Shop on Greatstone Road, Stretford. Evidence was seized that revealed counterfeit labels for 45 different brands of designer goods were then added to the items. Once they had been branded with the fake designer labels, they were then shipped onto another retail premises - The One Shop on Bury New Road - to be sold on to members of the public.
Two other offenders - Qand Agha Sarwary and Sherin Agha Sarwary who are the brothers of Sarwari Dlague - are still outstanding and circulated as wanted.
Detective Constable Paul Yates and Detective Constable Sue Barker, who led the investigation, said: "Counterfeiting on this scale requires serious organisation, established distribution channels and money. Judging by the swathes of boxes we seized that were stuffed with fake goods, it is clear this gang had set up a highly profitable criminal venture and were pocketing large sums of cash.
"However, their arrogance and mistaken belief they could act with impunity eventually cost them dear.
"We seized so much documentation and evidence that revealed both the scale of this criminal network and the undeniable involvement of those convicted. The evidence was so overwhelming that they must have thought they would never be caught. But thanks to our officers their entire network came crashing down around them. I would like to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of the officers involved who have helped achieve these excellent convictions, which have far-reaching implications for everyone working and living in Manchester.
"I want to make it clear just how damaging counterfeit goods can be not only to the UK economy but businesses right here in Manchester.
"The cost of counterfeit goods for trademark owners, consumers and the UK economy is huge. The Home Office estimates the criminal gain from counterfeiting in the UK alone is worth £1.3bn every year.
"While it might seem like a victimless crime and that buying a knock-off watch over the Internet is harmless, you are actually putting legitimate businesses at risk and as a consequence, putting people's jobs on the line. In times of austerity, local businesses here in Manchester thrive on trade and if people are being persuaded to buy fake goods elsewhere, it put those businesses and people's livelihoods in jeopardy.
"That is why the successful conclusion of this case is such a fantastic result for retailers across the city. It sends out a powerful message that anyone involved in the importation and sale of counterfeit goods will be caught and face stringent penalties.
"Greater Manchester Police is working very closely with trademark owners, HM Revenue and Customs, Trading Standards, the commercial industry and other enforcement agencies to target these bandits and together we will do everything in our power to disrupt the organised crime groups involved."
Ayesha Sarwary was registered with HMRC as trading under the name S&J Ariana. This name was used to import the consignments of counterfeit goods to The Late Shop on Stretford Road.
The goods were delivered in shipping crates from China to Southampton and Felixstowe, before being delivered to The Late Shop. Packages were also sent via air freight handlers to Manchester Airport, where they were then picked up and taken to The Late Shop.
Fake Gucci handbags and watches, GHD hair straighteners, UGG boots, Brietling, Tag Heuer watches, Tiffany and Cartier jewellery, Jimmy Chao handbags, D&G clothing were among the counterfeit goods seized.
On 28 November 2011, the first arrests as part of the investigation were made. Dlaghue and Khan were arrested after Dlaghue was seen to pick up a delivery of fake hair straighteners which he loaded into his van. The boxes were then unloaded at The Late Shop.
Dlaghue was stopped by police and had on him three mobile phones, a large amount of cash, UGG metal badges and numerous invoices. In his wallet were business cards for clothing businesses in China.
The Late Shop was raided by police and a laptop was recovered which proved the gang had set up a sophisticated arrangement with Chinese companies to import the counterfeit goods, and had set up legitimate arrangements with unsuspecting courier companies such as DHL and UPS to arrange deliveries. £30,000 in cash was found, along with more than 350 boxes packed with counterfeit goods. Khan was arrested at the shop.
Officers also recovered a box of buttons, labels and name plates for designer brands and when they searched Taiba Parsa's (Dlague's wife) flat, which was above The Late Shop, they found sewing machines. It was later revealed the gang would import the goods from China and once in the UK, would add the fake designer labels, buckles or buttons to make them look like the real thing. Doing it this way would avoid suspicion when the goods were checked by the Borders Agency when they were originally delivered to the UK.
On 14 December 2011, a warrant was executed at The One Shop on Bury New Road. At the time, Qand Sarwary was seen entering the shop but he fled and has not been seen since. Officers searched the store, and found an enormous amount of counterfeit branded clothing, footwear, jewellery and watches.
Further searches of the offender's homes revealed more counterfeit goods, and even books containing lists of designer brands with figures next to them, and designer brand brass stamps.
Officers also discovered evidence revealing large amounts of cash were paid to individuals in China via money transfers.
TIPS TO AVOID BUYING COUNTERFEIT GOODS
The following are the official guidelines, published by the Home Office, to help shoppers avoid buying counterfeit goods:
- Be suspicious about bargains if something seems too good to be true, it probably is
- Find out if you have any guarantees or after-sales service
- Examine the quality of the goods, check labels and packaging for misspellings and poor logos
- Take extra care at street markets, car boot sales or in situations where it may be difficult to get in touch with the trader after the purchase
- Be aware of fakes sold on internet auction websites, do your research - for example check online reviews