Approximately 200,000 counterfeit perfumes, toothpastes, cosmetics, 120 tonnes of counterfeit detergents, shampoos, diapers, and more than 4.2 million other counterfeit goods (batteries, shoes, toys, tennis balls, razors, electronic devices and etc.), 77 million cigarettes and 44 tonnes of counterfeit hookah tobacco were detained by Asian and EU customs in an ASEM-led operation coordinated by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
The Hygiene Joint Customs Operation was carried out under the Asia-Europe Initiative (ASEM *) as part of the joint efforts of the parties involved in the fight against counterfeit goods. The results were announced at the 13th ASEM Customs CEOs and Commissioners meeting held in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam on October 9-10, 2019. Customs Agency Director Georgi Kostov also took part in the meeting.
On behalf of the Customs Directors-General and Commissioners of ASEM (*) and the European Commission, the host of the meeting, Mr Nguyen Van Kahn, Director-General of Vietnam Customs, announced that the results of the operation, codenamed Hygia, involving a total of 194 498 counterfeit perfumes, toothpastes, cosmetics, as well as 120 833.69 kg of detergents, shampoos, diapers, detained and seized as a direct result of the operation aimed at counterfeit products (everyday goods). In addition, several shipments of tobacco products (a total of 44 062 kg of hookah tobacco and 77 811 800 short cigarettes) were found, some of them counterfeit and others smuggled. 4 202 432 other counterfeit items (batteries, shoes, toys, tennis balls, razors, electronic devices, etc.) have also been identified, including those incompatible with safety rules or smuggled.
In the course of the operation, the customs authorities carried out physical or X-ray checks on several hundred selected cargoes carried by sea containers.
During the Hygiene operational phase, OLAF facilitated cooperation between the participating countries through a team of ten liaison officers from Bangladesh, China, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Europol working together in Brussels. The Virtual Operational Coordination Unit, which is a reliable communication channel for such joint customs operations, was used to direct the flow of incoming information. This real-time exchange of information, which also involved Bulgarian customs, allows us to identify goods suspected of containing counterfeit goods in the general flow of commercial transactions.
Ville Italala, OLAF’s managing director, said that “Operation Hygiene” shows what can be achieved when customs, international partners and industry work together to combat counterfeiting. Counterfeit goods cheat consumers, damage legitimate trading activities and cause huge losses of public revenue. Counterfeit goods also undermine public health policies. When counterfeits flood our markets, the only beneficiaries are fraudsters and criminals. I heartily congratulate all those who participated in Operation Hygiene for the excellent results, ”said Vile Itala.
[*] EU Member States, Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The Asia-Europe ASEM initiative was established in 1996 as a policy initiative to create a new type of partnership between Europe and Asia. It is an interregional forum, based on a common understanding of the need to strengthen and deepen Europe-Asia relations at all levels, in a spirit of mutual respect and equality and to achieve a more balanced political and economic world order. ASEM is an informal open platform for discussion on some political, economic, social and cultural issues of mutual interest.
Information on the operation can be found on the OLAF website