09/01/2012 12:26 GMT

Police Attack 'Fools And Horses' Culture As Counterfeit Gang Convicted

A senior detective attacked Britain's "Only Fools and Horses" culture today as a gang faced gaol for a fake goods empire worth tens of millions of pounds.

Detective Superintendent Dave Clark warned the public to shun market "knock-offs" after four men were found guilty of attempting to flood the country with counterfeit products.

Zoheir Habet, 41, Maroud Abad, 39, Elies Dehimi, 47 and Sid Dehimi, 24, were the UK arm of a criminal network shipping the fake goods from China.

They were all found guilty by a jury after a transatlantic sting led by officers from City of London police.

Detectives worked undercover with US authorities to track containers of illegal goods being shipped from the Far East and through ports on England's south-east coast.

In March 2010, police searched 40 containers in one of the largest seizures of counterfeit goods in UK history.

The haul, worth £5 million, included approximately 50,000 items of counterfeit products - from trainers to designer handbags and faulty hair-straighteners. Goods carried logos including Gucci, Versace, Ralph Lauren and Nike.

The gang imported up to 158,000 pairs of counterfeit trainers alone, it later emerged.

Mr Clark, who led the operation alongside the UK Border Agency and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), said the country is losing tens of millions of pounds in lost taxes and trade through the fake goods industry.

"The four men convicted today were key components in a criminal network that stretched around the world, hiving off millions of pounds from counterfeit goods made in China and sold on market stalls and shops around the UK.

"That they are no longer free to continue their illegal activities is due to a complex and extensive transatlantic investigation by UK and US authorities committed to clamping down on counterfeiting and the organised crime groups who profit from it."

He added: "Unfortunately there still is an Only Fools and Horses syndrome in this country where people want to get something for nothing and even when there is evidence of criminality law enforcement will not direct the resources to investigate. Both of these need to change if we are ever to properly get to grips with counterfeiting in the UK."

The four Londoners - Abad, of Shepherd's Bush, Habet, of Brentford, and brothers Elies Dehimi, of South Harrow, and Sid Dehimi, of Finsbury Park, - denied conspiring to contravene the Trade Marks Act 1994 but were convicted at Southwark Crown Court. The Dehimis and Abad were also convicted of possessing criminal property.

They imported items into the UK via Heathrow as well as East Midlands and Coventry airports between March 2007 and August 2010.

All four men were remanded in custody to be sentenced on 6 February.