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Tuscany: clandestine immigration and counterfeiting go hand...
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Tuscany: clandestine immigration and counterfeiting go hand in hand

Tuesday, 23 September 2014
By Michel Arnoux
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Michel Arnoux

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2 min read

Three years ago in these same columns (Revue FH) we reported on efforts by officers of the Guardia di Finanza to curb counterfeiting in Tuscany. The region of Florence is well known beyond Italy’s borders for its rich manufacturing heritage, handed down from the Middle Ages.

Over time, the modest artisans of yesteryear have become global brands. Unfortunately, this outward appearance of grand luxury has a less wholesome underside, with counterfeiting rife in the region today. How did things get this bad? The answer, a complex mix of demographic, economic, historical and cultural factors, would no doubt merit a lengthy dissertation, which is not our intention.

The fact is that investigations conducted three years ago highlighted the involvement of the Chinese diaspora, which is much in evidence in Tuscany in all sectors of fake goods production. The large-scale police operation carried out at the time resulted in the arrest of several Chinese nationals and the dismantlement of a number of clandestine workshops. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. The same might be true of counterfeiters, insofar as the positions made vacant were quickly filled again. No rest therefore for the men of the Guardia di Finanza, who remain on the alert and motivated. In their investigations, they now have a decisive advantage: they understand better how clandestine networks operate. By present reckoning, they will soon be speaking Chinese.

More than 600,000 watchmaking components were seized.

On 11 July this year, at the end of a rapid and efficient investigation, the public prosecutor ordered another large-scale operation in the area between Prato and Empoli. The workshop bosses, eight Chinese nationals, were arrested, and an impressive quantity of goods, dispersed over several sites, were confiscated. More than 600,000 watchmaking components were seized, including 15,000 finished watches awaiting distribution. Twenty-one Swiss brands were implicated in the seizure, with 2,700 finished watches imitating one brand alone. The haul also included around a hundred quality-marks and nameplates.

The head of the FH Anti-Counterfeiting Department travelled to Tuscany on 26 August to carry out the initial expert analysis requested by Dr Egidio Celano, the public prosecutor dealing with the case. A photographic dossier was also compiled on this occasion to assist in production of the expert’s report, which will be accessible to all brands concerned once it has been forwarded to the Italian authorities. As always, the legal proceedings now opened will take their course over a period of several months, with a judgment expected within two years. During this time, probably not far away, we can be sure that other workshops are already swinging into action.

Article published in Revue FH

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