2006-12-01 07:10:58
Counterfeit Goods Seized
Customs, immigration and police officers confiscated thousands of fake designer handbags, watches, clothes and other counterfeit items yesterday following a raid at an East St. South warehouse.

More than 5,000 Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags were among the plethora of false designer labels that were stacked floor to ceiling in the large building.

Shoes, hats, key chains, sunglasses and hundreds of other items were among the goods found in the warehouse, located behind Sparkle Wash House, when police shut down the operation on Wednesday night around 7:00pm.

Second in charge of the Counterfeit Crime Division at the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Michael Moxey, told reporters that the counterfeit warehouse was allegedly in operation for nearly a year before police raided the building.

The alleged owner of the operation, 31-year-old Shan Ma, a Chinese national with residency status is now in police custody. Shan Ma said yesterday that he did not know the difference between counterfeit and real goods.

"A lot of the trade names are here: Nike, Prada, Gucci, Luis Vuitton, quite a number of stuff," said Mr. Moxey. "This dwells heavily under trademark and copyright laws."

Mr. Moxey said the counterfeit items would have been brought in by container over a period of time.

The officer also noted that the alleged owner had a business license to operate a store, but not the establishment on East Street South.

The Nassau Guardian, as far back as May of this year, published a series of reports about a growing trend of vendors around the island selling false designer products.

Customs official Alma Poitier-Whyms said law enforcement officers have also noticed the gradual increase.

She noted that a lot of undercover work had to take place before officers had enough evidence to close down the warehouse.

"It was an ongoing operation that lasted for a period of two months. I was the officer that came in as a regular person looking for bags for the holidays, shoes, hats and gift items for family members for Christmas," said Ms. Poitier-Whyms.

"Every time I came there would be tons of people here trying to find out when the new shipment will be in, prices, and what's hot on the market at this present time," she alleged.

Ms Poitier-Whyms also alleged that only women were allowed into the building and that they could only bring with them their keys and cash, and were watched closely by several security guards hired to ensure that no one stole any of the items.

"You would walk through the building, see what you want, collect [it] and bring it to the front of the store and then they would tell you the price," alleged the officer.

A patron of the establishment, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of legal prosecution, said the warehouse was well known around the straw market, as they were open after hours, from 6 pm to 10 pm, and had "dirt cheap" prices.

"The Gucci and Coach [fake] bags were like $25, key rings were for $2, belts for $5 and [knock off] wallets were $5," said the source. "[A lot of people] would go there, but he wasn't a serious wholesaler [because] he would let people walk in just for key rings."

Many people from "the market" were allegedly in the store when police came in and shouted "drop everything and leave now," said the source.

Mr. Moxey said the public needs to realize that buying counterfeit items is a crime and offenders could be fined up to $100,000 or sentenced to five years in prison.

"Use this as an example to know that the laws do exist and they will be enforced," he warned.

According to Mr Moxey, all of the items confiscated on Thursday would be destroyed.

By INDERIA SAUNDERS, Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
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