Video: 7,000 fake items seized in a single day in Dubai
The counterfeit items in Dubai are not sold in the main viewing area of the shop.
Dubai is a haven for luxury goods. However, behind this glitz and glamour, there is a huge grey market that thrives and the Department of Economic Development is constantly trying to thwart the thriving business.
Khaleej Times recently joined DED officials for a live raid on Karama shops and an apartment in a massive crackdown on fake goods. About 7,000 items worth approximately half a million dirhams were seized including fake luxury bags, watches, clothes and sunglasses.
It was a Thursday and the shop owners were perhaps preparing for the weekend mega-sale of fake items. Little did they know that the DED team was also preparing for them. We started with a morning meeting around 10am at the DED warehouse in Garhoud where Ibrahim Behzad, director, Intellectual Property Rights Management, DED, briefed his team of four inspectors about six targets in Karama and how to reach the shops at the same time.
"You can see Mr. Ibrahim tries to prepare the inspectors every time there's a raid so that we don't lose the counterfeit items. It's really here that the inspectors memorise as to where's the secret path and the secret door," Ahmad Almheiri, senior manager, business protection department at the DED, told me.
As soon as Ibrahim gave the go ahead, the inspectors jumped into their cars and sped off towards the busy Karama market. Before dispersing, they promised to communicate via WhatsApp.
I sat in a car with Almheiri who explained the dynamics of Karama's fake market. "The counterfeit items in Dubai are not sold in the main viewing area of the shop. They are always behind a secret door or in a secret apartment, especially in Karama."
Beware! The word spreads
As soon as our car entered the Karama market area, we could see some movement - somebody running to a shop, others calling, perhaps trying to spread the word - beware, the DED officials have arrived.
"Now that we have reached, we need to move fast. We are going to our first target. In Karama, you can't stay at one shop [for long]. You should keep moving. Every minute that we lose by staying longer in a shop, they may be removing a fake item from another shop," said Almheiri, almost gasping for breath, as we ran towards our first target.
By the time we reached the first target, the DED inspector had already found the secret door.
"The door was on the first level of the store, hidden behind the clothes but our inspector found it," said Almheiri. But that wasn't it. Further inside was another passage inside where hundreds of fake clothes, shoes and accessories from Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Givenchy were stored.
Holding a pair of fake shoes, Ibrahim told the shop owner: "When you have shoes, it means you have a full store of shoes somewhere because maybe the customer will need a different size."
The shop owner shook his head but it wasn't enough to convince Ibrahim.
"Now we are going to call the transportation company to take the items. The transportation costs will be allocated to each shop that gets caught with counterfeit items," Almheiri said, adding that "They are going to pay for everything."
New ways to hide things
Without wasting much time, we headed to our next target. As we prowled in the busy market, Ibrahim kept stopping at shops, speaking to the traders in Urdu and sometimes sharing a laugh with them. It seemed like everyone knew him well and wanted to steer clear of him.
Our next shop had come up with a rather innovative technique to hide fake items. "There's a door under the floor. They have hidden the items under the floor tiles. This is new for us," added Almheiri.
The inspector broke open the floor tiles and dug out boxes of fake watches and sunglasses. Interestingly, he also found a small notebook that was meant for keeping record of the sale of those fake items.
"Write for them here... Game over," said Ibrahim and all of us were in splits.
Next was probably the most important target on our list - the apartment. Not only were they selling fake items, they were doing the transactions without a trade licence. We brisk walked towards the apartment building next to the Karama market. We entered the apartment and Almheiri showed me the three huge locks on the front door and a camera instead of the usual door viewer. Further to the left, a massive room was filled with fake luxury bags.
I noticed a sign that said "No cameras allowed inside."
We were able to meet all our targets by 1:00pm. In the end, the inspectors started issuing fines to each shop owner using an app on their phones called Meydani.
The transportation crew arrived and they began to count the items, pack them in huge sacks and loaded them into a truck.
The confiscated items are usually destroyed after being stored in the DED warehouse for 10 days in case they need to revisit the case.
Last year, 26.2 million pieces of counterfeit goods were seized with net value of Dh1.19 billion. Cosmetics topped the list of fake items caught in 2017 followed by mobile phones and fragrances by quantity.
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