Dominic Littlewood examines fake goods in the UK, including fake electricals from the Far East and the fake mini motorcycles that endangered the lives of their riders.
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These are ordinary houses in an ordinary street and they could be anywhere in the country.
But the house I'm in is stuffed with fake goods, and your home could be, too.
Today, I'm going to show you a world where everything is not quite as it seems. Welcome to Fake Britain.
Police officers. Stay where you are!
In this series, I'm going to be investigating
the world of conmen and crooks who make their living at your expense.
And I'm going to be showing you how not to get ripped off.
Today, I'm looking at all kinds of fake goods, from food to fuse boxes.
Tracking the makers of fake electricals and counting the cost.
That's when we realised that the fake plug was deadly.
Hitting the bottle - the hunt for a fake vodka that could blind you.
This is injurious to health. It's going to hurt people. You need to get it off the streets.
And they're even faking brand name kids' motorbikes.
The consequences of them going up in flames
when children are on them, well, I couldn't live with that.
Just look at all this stuff. It's all fake.
Now, you might think it's all right saving yourself a few quid
buying things like washing powder, watches, undies, sunglasses.
What about more expensive items? Things like electrical goods.
I tell you what, my first story might make you think twice.
Here's our tree, our Christmas tree.
It's Christmas, and starring in the school nativity is seven-year-old Connor O'Keeffe.
To remind us of the very first Christmas.
The next day, Connor flew off for a family holiday abroad,
packing his beloved computer game but forgetting the charger.
Walking along the street, and he'd be looking behind him
and trying to walk and do his Game Boy at the same time.
He just was Game Boy mad.
We went into a department store and bought him a Game Boy charger.
And unfortunately, it was deadly.
They'd been deceived into buying a fake charger.
Similar ones have flooded world markets.
One test found 15 out of 21 chargers bought online in the UK failed
British safety regulations. It's a frightening thought.
He went in search of his Game Boy, thought he'd he'd have a quick go of his Game Boy before his food came.
And when his food came,
and we went in to get him,
He was dead.
He was just lying on the floor with the charger lead in his hand.
Connor was electrocuted. When the charger was tested in London,
the coroner assured Patsy
only an expert could have known that she had bought a deadly fake.
Like I say, it had a hologram. It had the Nintendo hologram on it.
There was nothing to lead me to believe that it was fake,
even the box it came in.
The person who's responsible for that plug, and probably many more,
is maybe not even aware that that plug killed my son.
Later, we join the global hunt
to track down manufacturers of those fake electrical goods.
The tranquil beauty of Carmarthenshire in Wales
would have soon been broken if the fake goods
shipped in this container had done what they were supposed to.
This is mini moto. Few sports can rival such action and adventure for father and son.
One dad saw bikes like these advertised on eBay.
Reassured that they were made by Honda, he thought what a great gift for his two sons.
On the Net, it was a fantastic page that they had advertising them.
And they looked the bee's knees, to be honest with you.
They did not look counterfeit at all.
And I've been messing about with bikes all my life.
But the two mini motorbikes he bought were fakes. They had never
been near a Honda factory. Trading Standards discovered the seller
had shipped a container load of them from China. The engines were made from chainsaws.
The defendant was advertising these on eBay,
described as Honda Mini Motos.
They're obviously not Honda.
Honda have confirmed that they're not Hondas.
You think, first of all, they're not the quality
you're used to with Honda, so alarm bells start ringing straight away.
You look at the stickers, you know the stickers are not Honda stickers.
When you try to start the bikes,
then you realise that these are cheap imitations.
You couldn't even start them, they were cheap tat in a cheap tatty box, really.
So you phone the gentleman up and the response I had was,
"He's not here no more, he's gone back to India." And that was it.
When Carmarthen Trading Standards examined the bikes,
it turned out it was probably just as well they wouldn't start.
I don't think I'd be exaggerating by calling these a death trap.
For example, the chain on the bike, there's too much tension in it and there's no chain guard on it.
Considering it's a chainsaw engine, a trouser leg or arm could easily be entrapped in the chain mechanism.
The stop button or shut down button, which is there for emergency use,
on this bike the button isn't connected to anything and therefore doesn't do anything.
The actual fuel pipe
which runs here, in our tests the carburettor got warm,
melted the fuel pipe and fuel was dumped on top of the engine.
The dangers are so serious that back at the track officials now weed out all fake bikes.
They're totally banned after one split in two at 40 mph.
I bought two motorbikes for two cracking sons, I'm just glad that they were broken,
because the consequences of them being right and going up in flames when children are on them,
well, I couldn't live with that.
With the help of Trading Standards, Stuart eventually got his money back.
The seller was prosecuted, pleaded guilty, and was fined £9,000 with £15,000 costs.
Time to find out how all this stuff slips into Blighty.
This is Felixstowe port.
40% of everything shipped into Britain arrives here.
That's over 3 million containers a year.
But which containers hold the fake goods?
With a single ship carrying over 10,000 containers, Mick Southgate's got his work cut out,
and uses this giant mobile scanner
just like the hand luggage ones at airports, only a lot, lot bigger.
By funnelling down and getting a number of containers
we're interested in, we can put them through the scanning process.
It saves huge amounts of time.
This morning, there is something odd about a container load of industrial fans from China.
The scanner suggests something could be hidden inside them.
We're concerned about the overall weight of these particular fans.
They seem very heavy, so we will now go to do some further examination.
The 70-odd fans are someone's property, but Mick is suspicious.
We'll rejoin him when he orders an inspection...
But not all fake traders are waiting on their next shipment from abroad.
Officers are going to a suburban home churning out its own fake DVDs and selling them online.
And they're about to get an early morning wake-up call.
We're just about to enter this house. We're hoping to find
lots of DVDs, so here we go.
Police! Police, we have a warrant!
Who'd have believed what's been going on at this suburban house?
Equipped to churn out over £2,000 worth of fake DVDs every hour, this is a goldmine.
I think we've hit the jackpot, chaps, I think we've hit the jackpot.
What we've found today, the amount of money involved, we're talking millions.
We've had a very good hit today.
We've taken out 25,000 discs and hopefully taking that site down.
But I'm sure it'll morph again and we'll do the same job again.
Later on today we'll be interviewing the two individuals that were arrested and asking them to explain.
Do we need to interview them? Probably not, I think the evidence
is overwhelming, but it would be nice to have a chat with them and find out what their involvement is.
Of all the fakes out there, DVDs are perhaps the ones people are most willing to buy.
I think you should all look at yourselves and think,
you know, this is taking millions out of the industry.
You have a job, I have a job, how would you like it if somebody
was to come in, undercut your job and cost you your job?
These two could be facing a long stretch away from peaceful suburbia.
Back at Felixstowe, Mick Southgate has
given the green light for officers to cut open those suspiciously heavy Chinese industrial fans.
If it turns out nothing inside is fake, they can't be repaired.
The owners won't be happy.
Mick stands by his instincts.
Result! Stuffed with counterfeit cigarettes.
Churned out in illegal Chinese factories for just 9p a packet,
somebody hoped to make a lot of money.
They reckon that one in nine cigarettes in Britain is fake.
This is quite a sophisticated concealment.
You've seen that there are cigarettes inside the fans.
The profits they're making from this have to be significant to make all of
that, plus the shipping costs and the distribution costs, worthwhile.
A full container of cigarettes could
perhaps bring £1 million worth of profit.
We think we've seen it all and then something else comes along
and we get something different we haven't seen before.
Tests on fake cigarettes have found rat droppings, sawdust, and arsenic in them.
With higher levels of nicotine and tar, they're more addictive
and may contain twice the amount of cancer-causing agents.
Assuming there is something in the pack.
You buy 200 cigarettes off somebody on the street corner.
You think what a good deal, take it home, open up the packaging,
and you won't even find any cigarettes in there are all.
But you will find a lump of lead and a bit of polystyrene.
Which probably is the ultimate con as far as counterfeit cigarettes is concerned.
This is a good example of cigarettes concealed in wood.
There were millions in a container that came from the Far East.
Back at the warehouse, a good day for Mick and the team,
a bad day for someone waiting on that container load of fans.
Now we will pass this case on to our investigation colleagues who'll be
looking to try and trace the people that were
funding this importation, and they'll be looking to go out and hopefully make some arrests in the UK.
Remember that terrible story of how seven year-old Connor
was electrocuted by a fake Game Boy charger?
Terrifyingly, there are still a lot more dodgy electrical goods out there.
This story happened once upon a time, 2,000 years ago...
Seven-year old Connor was killed by a fake Game Boy charger.
What horrifies his mother is that thousands of fake electrical goods are shipped into Britain every day.
Just listening to me, I'm hoping that it will just
make people think twice before they do buy things like that.
Just to stop and really check, because looking at them isn't enough.
If it saves just one other kid then that's something, isn't it?
Working undercover in China for the real manufacturers,
Kevin Harris poses as a buyer and locates the counterfeit factories.
Alongside Chinese authorities, Kevin hopes to shut them down in raids like this.
About £30 million worth of fake electricals make it into Britain every year.
We have conducted something like 300 raids, we've confiscated and had destroyed over 10 million products.
It's the tip of the iceberg, you know?
We're fighting a losing battle.
These products, well, they're made from plastic that
you wouldn't even make a Barbie doll from, quite frankly.
So let's compare the real thing with something knocked up in one of these factories.
In your fuse box at home you will have devices such as this.
This one is a genuine product, with all the certification markings that you can see,
and you can see how sturdy it is.
This one is a fake one, made in south-east China.
You can see how shoddy this one is and it gives absolutely no protection whatsoever.
When I've posed as a buyer of counterfeit products in southern China at the trade fairs,
they will ask you what product you want, what brand you want,
what country they're going to, because this will give them
the idea of which certification marks to put on to the product.
Whether they comply or not, they don't care.
The risk is fire and injury, and death.
We've come to an electrical testing lab, where authentic products earn their certification.
So how dangerous would this fake circuit breaker be under the stairs of your home?
What we're going to ask this device to do is exactly what it said on the label.
We want people to think of this as the protective device in their home and their office,
and from our previous experience, what we need to do now
is to walk behind the bullet-proof glass to a secure area.
Later, we find out what happens when we throw the switch on the fake.
After watching that, you might be tempted to pour yourself a stiff drink, but be careful.
You've guessed it, yes, the fakers have been targeting the drink business.
And this bootleg booze could be on sale in a shop right near you.
Up and down the country, thousands of bottles
of seized fake vodka stack up in Trading Standards warehouses.
It's left two people dead and many more seriously ill.
In Cardiff alone, recent raids uncovered
14 corner shops selling fakes of the reputable Glenn's Vodka.
In this particular case we've got over 1,000 bottles of vodka behind me.
We picked all those up in one day. I was surprised at the amount,
but also surprised that 14 retailers
were prepared to buy this stuff
out of the back of a white van with no VAT receipt, no nothing.
And then, bless them, they'll come to court and plead that in all innocence
they did this, they had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong.
It beggars belief, really, that they would expect magistrates to believe them.
This shop alone had over 600 bottles of the stuff.
Fined £400, they also lost their alcohol licence for three months.
And this wasn't even the city's biggest haul.
What they uncovered at this factory was more 1920s Chicago than 21st century Cardiff.
A complete fake vodka factory.
This was full-scale production of illegal alcohol.
We're talking 4,000-5,000 litre vats of the raw ethanol.
There were pallets and pallets of these bottles waiting to go out.
We'd had information to suggest that HGV wagons had already left
the depot, so I'd hate to put a figure on
how many bottles had actually left and were being put in circulation.
Scientists discovered they'd faked East European Christoff Vodka.
But this had 120 times the legal amount of methanol -
tasteless, but deadly.
You can't detect methanol. It smells very much like ethanol,
but the consequences are that it can it make you feel dizzy, you can have
pains in your stomach, you can actually then become sick.
But if you do drink a lot of it in one go or over a short period of time, then you can actually
result in respiratory failure and even blindness.
They're dangerous to the point where a fatality may occur.
The analysis was plain and simple, this is injurious to health.
It's going to hurt people, you need to get it off the streets,
so obviously our efforts were directed in that area.
With 5,000 bottles labelled and ready to go, how many had already hit the streets?
Amazingly, the fast work of scientists and officers in the field meant no one was injured.
The gang, out to make a fast buck with their dangerous hooch, were never caught.
I'd be foolish to think we'd ended the problem.
We haven't ended the problem across the counterfeiting piece -
why should this be any different?
And remember, fake vodka can appear normal, so be careful where you buy it.
Even drinking it neat, you're not going to be able to tell,
and the only way you're going to know is when you fall ill.
If you ever have any doubt, don't drink it, inform Trading Standards, have it tested.
In Birmingham, Sean Tregonnan and his team of officers are
revisiting a shop that just can't kick its habit of selling fake fags.
Revenue and Customs.
We need to come and have a check for your cigarettes and tobacco, OK?
Straight away, Sean finds they haven't changed their ways.
Counterfeit hand-rolling tobacco.
Generally, you can tell by their body language whether they're pleased to see you
or are genuinely trying to hide something.
The people who are very helpful and stand in the same place whilst directing you around are
generally standing very close to where they don't want you to be.
Where are you going? I need to ask you some questions about this stuff.
Is there any more cigarettes around?
He says no, but Sean's a suspicious sort of chap and doesn't always believe what he's told.
And sure enough, another bag full of fakes.
The shop down the road selling the real thing makes only pence on every packet.
With these guys, it's pounds on every piece.
Ever thorough, Sean searches for the old skirting board trick.
Round the back, officers bump into another shop worker in a bit of a hurry.
We went in the front of the shop, the shopkeeper was obviously behind the counter.
He said something to a lad that was in the shop who then went out the back.
Luckily, we had officers covering at the back and they caught him
filling up onion bags full of cigarettes out of some old furniture stored in the garden.
Back in the shop, Sean's looking for something hot from the fridge.
-Yet another haul.
-Have I missed any?
No. Have we got them all? You sure?
I know, I just don't sleep very well at night
if I don't find out I've got them all.
The only place he hasn't looked is the cake counter, packed with delicious pastries...
Customs give the shop yet another warning.
Now they are hundreds of pounds out of pocket, as 15,000 fake fags are carried off.
Good old British cod and chips. It's our national institution.
It's like boiled egg and soldiers, but, John, fake cod?
-Tell me this can't be true.
-I'm afraid it is, Dom.
We had a complaint from a lady who bought cod and chips,
and once she'd tasted the cod she thought, "I'm absolutely sure it's not cod."
So she took it back to the chip shop and the chip shop gave her no satisfaction whatsoever.
-She complained to Trading Standards.
-If it wasn't cod, what was it?
It was a fish called pangasius.
-Which is what you've got here.
-This is pangasius.
It's a river fish and it's farmed in the rivers of Vietnam.
I've got to say, that looks absolutely nothing like that.
They are totally different, aren't they?
So how could somebody even attempt to get away with flogging that and saying it's that?
Well, when it's deep fried and battered they look very similar.
But that is £5 per kilo, and that is £15 per kilo.
Right, so it's purely about money here, isn't it?
It is about money, yes. And we prosecuted both the directors and the company.
The directors were fined £2,000 each, and the company had to pay another £1,200.
£5,200, all for masquerading a bit of cod which was actually a panga.
That's absolutely correct.
I know of other incidents that have happened elsewhere in the country.
It must be happening the length and breadth of the country.
So if anybody ever buys something and they're
not happy about it, don't think that a complaint is good enough.
Try and keep a little bit of it back, take it to you guys,
-you investigate it and then bring a prosecution.
Well, that tale might have left you with a bad taste in your mouth
and a dent in your wallet.
But let's return to a story
that could have deadly consequences for you and your family.
Remember that fake circuit breaker?
Time to find out what would happen if it was under your stairs.
This effectively is the National Grid.
This is the consumer. And if this fails
as a fake device, there will be serious injury, there will be a fire.
Possibly serious injury and death.
This could kill. This could seriously injure people.
Houses could burn down.
Just one fake charger killed Connor O'Keeffe.
It was perfectly packaged outside but deadly inside.
And as fakes flood Britain, the fear is Connor won't be the last to die.
It gets a bit easier
but life ain't the same, it'll never be the same.
You don't expect to bury your children.
When he died something in me died.
I'm not the same person.
With offenders carted off to prison, fake fags off to the local incinerator and fake electricals
crushed by a bulldozer, There's a lot of waste in fake Britain.
Just imagine if some good could come out of it.
In a single raid Tower Hamlet's Trading Standards seized £100,000 of fake clothing.
It, too, should be destroyed.
Before we met you we used to incinerate it.
We guarantee it'll help people who really need it.
We're going to take off the branding and then Trading Standards said, if you can take-off the branding
they no longer are fake Tommy Hilfiger or fake Nike.
They are neutral. You can have them and you can do what you want with them.
With brand-names unstitched and the charity's label stuck on,
a truckload arrives at the Whitechapel Mission for the Homeless.
He's heard your prayers, Sue.
Oh, they're going to love this.
That might have said a little Ralf Lauren horse on there,
we took it off and we put HIS on, that means we can give socks away.
These are fabulous.
-That started life as a Prada hat.
-Now look. Aren't they wonderful?
So you're going to be able to have a shower, get whatever you need, brand new clothing.
A nice bit of designer gear.
It's like walking into Aladdin's cave on Christmas.
I don't know, I'm gobsmacked.
I really am.
It's put me on a par with everyone else.
So, yeah, this could actually change my world.
They say it's not going to change the world, but it'll change mine.
It's a happy ending. Yeah.
Beggars can be choosers.
At the Mission.
All this stuff was going to be used for crime and for criminal activity.
It ends up helping the people who most need it.
Thanks for everything, everyone.
Have a good day. Bye-bye. Bye everyone.
This is one place criminals never thought their wares would end up.
Police officers, stay where you are.
Next time on Fake Britain I'll be investigating the world of fake money.
That's all from Fake Britain for today.
Thanks for watching.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
From his 'Fake House' stuffed with counterfeit goods, presenter Dominic Littlewood reveals the extent of fake goods in the UK.
We investigate the tragic tale of seven-year-old Connor O'Keefe who was electrocuted and died after using a fake power charger for his electronic game. Fake electricals are produced in the Far East but are potentially lethal. Fake Britain examines fake fuse boxes which are tested with alarming results. There's also a look at the fake mini motorcycles that endangered the lives of the children they were bought for.
Customs and Excise officers search a high street shop and find thousands of fake cigarettes, before uncovering an audacious plan to smuggle fake cigarettes from China into the country hidden in huge fans, while Trading Standards and Customs officers shut down a fake vodka distillery and find hundreds of bottles of fake vodka on sale. We even see how good old British cod and chips is being faked in fish shops by using a much cheaper fish from Vietnam.