Chinese and U.S. police have jointly smashed an international criminal network that made and sold fake luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Rolex and Cartier, the Ministry of Public Security announced on Wednesday. [Special coverage]
The joint probe is part of an ongoing collaboration between law enforcement agencies in the two countries to curtail intellectual property infringement, and it reflects a zero-tolerance attitude on both sides toward cross-border crimes, the ministry said.
In this case, fake luxury goods were produced in Chinese factories, sold via e-commerce and shipped to the U.S. and other countries and regions.
Chinese police so far have detained 36 suspects and destroyed seven production plants, confiscating more than 3,000 counterfeit items, including leather products, suitcases, glasses, watches and jewelry. Sales had reached 100 million yuan (.1 million), according to the ministry.
U.S. law enforcement agencies are investigating buyers who placed the orders in the United States.
Early this year, police in Guangzhou received a tip and discovered an English-language website full of advertisements for fake luxury goods, the ministry said. Later, a criminal group - led by a person with the surname Zhuang - surfaced. The ministry then informed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about the matter, and a joint investigation was started.
As part of the effort, police discovered that Zhuang and his associates received orders from the website in Guangzhou, and then purchased fake products from local markets or ordered them from illegal factories. The pirated products were sealed and declared at customs through Zhuang's express company, and then shipped abroad through international express delivery services.
In mid-July, police in Guangdong raided production, storage and export operations, and found information related to orders from U.S. customers. From those orders, they found that many U.S. customers were aware the products were fake but still placed large orders. That led police to suspect those customers of being intermediaries in the sale of the products on U.S. soil, according to the ministry.
At the request of U.S. officials, the ministry sent a police team to the United States at the end of August to collect evidence. Both sides are now investigating web servers in the U.S. and a possible wholesale network in China, the release said.
Liu Chuntian, a professor at the Renmin University of China's Intellectual Property Academy, said that in recent years China and the U.S. have been in close communication and have collaborated against multinational intellectual property infringement.
China and the U.S. have common ground in fighting IPR infringement, and a consensus has been reached at high levels on both sides, he said.