organised crime (6)

This 52 minutes documentary "The Criminals Running Our Food Chain - Food Fraud: An Organised Crime? ", published in 2021, is now publicly available - see below.

The documentary covers some well known food fraud issues encountered in recent years and includes an account of some of the food fraud prevention activities that have been deployed to combat food fraud.

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Fake wines and spirits costs the global drinks industry Euros 2.7bn in sales across the EU according to figures from the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Food Standards Scotland -Food Crime and Incidents Unit have warned that there is a large scale national trade in counterfeit drinks, which targets the low to medium priced market leading brands of vodka and wine. This trade damages legitimate beverage businesses and retailers, and is often linked to organised crime outside of Scotland. In addition, counterfeit spirits may also present a risk to health.

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6075297078?profile=RESIZE_400x The EUIPO Status Report 2020 published this month, brings together its reporting work on intellectual property at EU and at global level. It also contains research on the volume of counterfeit and pirated goods in international trade, and the economic contribution of intellectual property-rights intensive industries to economic growth and jobs. According to a study carried out by EUIPO and the OECD in 2019, estimates of IPR infringement in international trade in 2016 could reach as much as 3.3 % of world trade. Hence, it is estimated that up to 6.8 % of EU imports, or EUR 121 billion per year, are fake goods.  In a series of sectorial studies, the EUIPO has estimated lost sales in 11 sectors in the EU (directly in the industries being analysed and across their associated supply chain), as a result of counterfeiting. These  losses totalled more than EUR 83 billion per year during the period 2013-2017. In addition, more than 671 000 jobs in legitimate businesses were lost, and the Member States lost EUR 15 billion per year in tax revenue.

A Joint Europol/EUIPO Poly-criminality Report also published in June, suggests that counterfeit goods increasingly being linked to the actions of organised criminal networks and other illegal activities such as drug trafficking, manslaughter, illegal arms possession, forced labour, food fraud, excise duty fraud, VAT fraud, corruption and money laundering.

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According to the first EU-wide intellectual property crime threat assessment from Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), most criminal activity involving counterfeiting is carried out by increasingly professionalised organised crime networks, which can reap large profits while running relatively few risks.

Food and drinks remain highly popular items for counterfeiters, with the EU consistently emerging as a major destination market for counterfeit food and drinks. Detected counterfeit food products include baby milk powder, stock cubes, cheese, coffee, olive oil and pasta. Several of these goods have been found in groceries and supermarkets, illustrating that they also infiltrate the legal supply chain. As the counterfeit goods are almost always of substandard quality and produced in unhygienic environments, they can pose a serious risk to the health and wellbeing of consumers. In some cases, counterfeit food has even been found to contain dangerous or hazardous ingredients. Law enforcement authorities regularly detect other types of counterfeit goods alongside counterfeit food and drinks, highlighting how organised crime groups are frequently involved in trading an ever wider range of different counterfeit goods. In general, there appears to be an overall professionalisation of the organised crime groups involved in food counterfeiting.

Besides food, counterfeit alcoholic beverages pose a considerable risk to EU consumers. Spirits and wine are especially popular goods targeted for counterfeiting by organised crime groups. They frequently place cheap wine in bottles containing fake expensive wine labels, sometimes even adding pure alcohol on counterfeit spirits. Production methods have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, with some organised crime groups operating their own production lines, including the packaging and labelling of the product. Another method is to use legitimate production lines one day a week or month for the production of counterfeits.

Read the full report.


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The Consumer Group Coldiretti have warned that organised crime groups "have taken advantage of the economic crisis to infiltrate the legal economy in an increasingly vast and widespread manner". This follows a large-scale anti-mafia investigation in early April, which uncovered links between popular tourist restaurants and organised crime groups. Italian police seized the bank accounts and 24 properties of a Neapolitan family, amounting to a total value of 20 million euros.Large-scale infiltration of the agro-food industry by organised crime is also rife.

Read the article at: 5000 restaurants in Italy mafia-run

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European Food Crime‏ publishes a paper that argues that food fraud, rather than being an ‘exogenous’ phenomenon perpetrated by externally organized (transnational) ‘criminal enterprise’, is better understood as an ‘endogenous’ phenomenon within the food system where legitimate occupational actors and organizations are in some way necessarily involved.
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