A COUNTERFEIT gang who legally imported clothing from Asia and then sold them as high street fashion brands here at a huge profit has been uncovered by gardai.
Members of the gang managed to bypass the law at the ports by bringing in van loads of clothing without labels so they do not breach trademark laws.
The goods were then stored in a warehouse while the gang also sourced high-end brand labels such as Paul's Boutique, and others like Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas and Nike. The items included hoodies, jackets and T-shirts, while the labels -- brought in via the post -- were stashed in another warehouse.
After a market had been established, the labels were stitched onto the clothing and sold off as legitimate products at street stalls around the country. As their business expanded, the gang opened up a number of shops to cater for the goods.
But the operation has now been shut down by the garda's intellectual property crime unit.
As a result of surveillance and intelligence shared with the customs service, the gardai raided a series of warehouses in the Midlands and seized clothing with an estimated retail value of €600,000.
Also confiscated were a printing press, computers and a quantity of labels.
This is the biggest counterfeit clothing "manufacturing" plant to be discovered here.
The Director of Public Prosecutions is currently considering a garda file on the case.
Counterfeit clothes are now at the head of the fake goods table with DVDs.
Detective Sergeant Nigel Mulleady, from the intellectual property crime unit, told the Irish Independent last night: "At one stage DVDs and CDs were the big sellers but now they are not as fashionable and the big interest is in clothes and internet purchases".
Sources reckon items are manufactured for as little as 50c or €1 in Pakistan and India are sold here for up to €20.
Many below-cost items are on offer through the internet and Det Sgt Mulleady warned buyers using unknown websites.
"If it looks too good to be true, then it usually is," he said.
Some of the goods are potential health and safety dangers.
Fake medicines such as Viagra and cholesterol-lowering drugs are being purchased on the internet and many are subsequently seized in the post.
About half a dozen gangs are responsible for the bulk of the fake trade, divided between the Border counties and Dublin.