“When people are involved in breaking the law in one area,” says the Manchester official, “they tend to break it in more than one area.” This was illustrated by Welsh gangster Bernard Davies, (aka Bernie Arms, on account of his bulging muscles), when he was caught as he prepared for Christmas some years ago.
One investigator said boxes of fake trainers were found at Bernie’s Cwmaman home, and police interrupted the man himself as he wrapped ounces of cannabis in Christmas paper for his customers.
They are so flexible it makes you wonder why on earth they need to turn to crime.” A surprisingly large number of fakes find their way to the Strangeways area.
As an IPO report made clear last year, fakes traders from all over the country will get stock from here, sometimes buying online, sometimes travelling to Manchester to bulk buy in person.
Scale this up to similar operations all over the country, and you are looking at imports of fakes into the UK that are now thought by the OECD to account for as much as £9.3bn a year.
And it’s pretty clear that there is a high degree of organisation involved.
One British investigator, a regular visitor to China, described the counterfeiting work as being done mainly by women, sometimes by children, in workshops that were “Dickensian: dark, dirty – and thanks to all the exposed wiring, potentially lethal”.
But elsewhere in Britain, people have been found doing the finishing.But investigators – none of them employed by the big brands - have told how Del Boy can sometimes be at the end of a chain involving “Dickensian” exploitation and organised criminals, who work with “a pump-action shotgun, dum-dum bullets and amphetamines”.“The reality,” says Huw Watkins, a former senior police detective who is now the head of intelligence at the Government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO), “is that selling fake goods cuts across a huge number of other crime types – and that includes violence, drug dealing and modern slavery.” More often than not the trail of victims begins in China.In fact, those who have worked this patch for a while recall raids where passers-by have gathered round the police and demanded: “Why are you bothering them? ” One possible answer came during a raid on 11 shops on 12 December, conducted by police, trading standards, HMRC and – perhaps tellingly – the Immigration Service.Three shipping containers were filled with seized fake clothing, handbags, trainers, perfumes and jewellery, with a total value in excess of £3m.