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RCMP investigators seize millions in counterfeit products in 2012

The value of counterfeit goods seized by the RCMP has increased by 500 per cent in less than a decade, according to the RCMP’s 2012 Intellectual Property Crime Statistics.

The retail value of seizures in 2012 reached $38.1 million, up from $7.7 million in 2005. With the exception of a one-year high of $67.5 million in 2011, due to a special operation dubbed Project O-Scorpion and another operation in 2008  which accounted for half of the yearly total of $29.3 million, the report shows there has been a relatively steady increase in RCMP seizures of counterfeit products between 2005 and 2012.

Of most concern to the RCMP is the increasing amount of counterfeit products appearing in Canada that pose a risk to the health and safety of people who use them – knowingly or unknowingly.

A full 30 per cent of incidents the RCMP saw in 2012 involved products that were potentially harmful, an increase from 11 per cent of incidents in 2005. These products run the gamut and can include: fake medications that may have the wrong amounts of active ingredients or none at all; electrical components or electronics that present fire/shock hazards; untested beauty products and perfume that may cause skin reactions, rashes, etc.; or toys that may have contaminants, lead paint or choking hazards.

“It’s a highly organized criminal activity,” says S/Sgt. Kevin Fahey, RCMP Federal Policing Criminal Operations. “There are significant resources invested in manufacturing and distributing these products; these are large-scale commercial operations with profits being funneled into organized crime activities.”

The largest Canadian intellectual property investigation took place over two phases in 2011 and 2012. Under Project O-Scorpion, the RCMP worked closely with Canada Border Services Agency personnel to identify the suspect goods as they arrived in Canada. The RCMP ultimately made 49 seizures totaling an estimated retail value of $43.5 million in the first phase of the project. In the second phase of the project 14 search warrants were executed, 67 charges were laid against 22 people and counterfeit products with a retail value of $35 million were seized.

“It’s these kinds of large-scale operations where we will make the greatest impact,” S/Sgt. Fahey explains. “If we can stop these products from even making it to store shelves, Canadians will ultimately be much safer.”