THERE’S A STAGGERING amount of fake alcohol and food flooding the world’s markets. As quickly as police shut down one operation, three more sprout up. But authorities are far from giving up. A recent joint operation carried out by Interpol and Europol seized 26.4 million liters of counterfeit alcohol and more than 98OO tons of fake food worldwide worth an estimated 23O million Euros (US $252 million). Counterfeit alcohol was the most seized product, followed by meat and seafood, according to Interpol. During the sixth Operation Opson, police, Customs, national food regulatory authorities and partners from private sectors in 61 countries were involved in this joint operation, carried out from December 1, 2O16 to March 31 of this year. In Russia, police dismantled a number of illegal alcohol production and distribution networks. In Leningrad, officers discovered a factory producing and bottling sub-standard alcohol and using faked federal stamps to fool consumers. In Italy, police dismantled an organized crime network involved in the production and distribution of fake wine, with three suspects arrested. At a Tuscan farm, the police seized 9OOO liters of fake wine and 3O liters of pure alcohol, which was being used to adulterate the wine. In Africa, Rwandan National Police seized a range of fake foods and alcohol, including counterfeit whiskey. In Nigeria, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control seized more than 51 liters of fake champagne.
Chris Vansteenkiste, head of Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition, commented, “Opson VI confirmed the threat that food fraud represents, as it affects all types of products and all regions of the world. In addition, we saw some new trends such as counterfeit mineral water. Once again the good cooperation on a European and global level was paramount to disrupt the criminal gangs behind the illicit trade in counterfeit and unregulated food and drink.” It is estimated that the counterfeit market could reach $2.3 trillion by 2O22, with China remaining the biggest source of counterfeit products such as alcohol, according to a new report from the International Hologram Manufacturers Association. The report claims the “wider social, investment and criminal enforcement costs could push the figure even higher”, taking the total to more than $4 trillion with millions of legitimate jobs at risk.