With Dominic Littlewood. We reveal the extraordinary amount of fake electrical cable being found in the UK and put some of it to the test with alarming results.
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Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems.
Welcome to Fake Britain.
-Police officer! Stay where you are!
In this series, I'm going to be investigating
the world of the criminals who make their money at your expense,
and I'm going to be showing YOU how not to get ripped off.
Coming up, we find out the shocking truth about fake electrical cables...
This fake cable is going to put lives at risk if there was a fire.
..how mass-produced art from China is being sold as the real deal...
I now know it was a complete fake. It's virtually brand new,
and a lot more of these are appearing.
..and how a stolen identity turned a dream wedding anniversary into a nightmare.
At this point, they're putting me in handcuffs and taking me off to a cell for the night.
The UK has one of the highest electrical safety standards in the world,
and with millions of miles of cabling fitted to our businesses, hospitals, schools and our homes,
it needs to be.
So you may be as shocked as me to discover that even THIS stuff has been faked.
And who knows, it could be fitted to a fuse box near you.
Electrical cables come in all shapes and sizes,
and we take it for granted that they do what they say they do.
In this warehouse, there are one million metres of cable that have been seized
from all over the UK, and ALL of it is suspected to be fake.
In just nine months, 20 million metres of suspected fake cable
has been removed from the supply chain -
that's 20 times this amount, so the problem is huge.
In fact, it's so big that the Approved Cables Initiative
has been set up to tackle the fakers.
Of course, we can name and shame,
and the Approved Cables Initiative
has been set up to target this sort of problem.
It's thought that one in five electrical cables in the UK is fake,
from potentially dangerous substandard ones to outright fakes
that will never work at all.
All of them are dangerous.
20% of ALL fires are caused by electrical fires,
and electrical fires, of that,
quite a lot of that is attributed to wire and cable fault.
There's nothing worse than a counterfeit cable.
It could cause a fire.
But that fire could be anywhere, it could be in a void, in a duct,
it could be under the stairs or behind a wall.
These are pictures of the damage caused by electrical fires.
No-one knows how many have been caused by fake cables,
but with 20 million metres of the stuff coming into the country,
many experts believe the fakes are responsible for a lot of them.
This is supposed to be a fire-resistant cable.
It's counterfeit, and has been proven to be counterfeit.
On the cable itself, it does say "British made", but we know it's not.
So we took it to a specialist testing facility
to see if it would set alarm bells ringing.
This is typically used for fire alarms, emergency lighting,
so this powers the system.
And it's supposed to continue to operate in the fire for up to three hours,
so whilst the cable is burning, it carries on operating.
The emergency lights have to be there so that people can see their way to escape routes,
and also for the fire-fighting services when they arrive,
so continued operation in a fire is vital for these types of cables.
The materials you make the cable with are critical, really, to achieve that fire performance.
Almost all the cables produced in the UK have to be marked on the outside.
If it's marked on the outside, your assumption is that manufacturer is telling you
that the product complies with that standard.
Doug shows us how they test the cable's performance in a controlled fire.
This is one of the standard fire tests that we use to check the cable.
It's a simple gas burner, and the cable will sit in the rings above the burner,
and it will be connected to an electrical circuit
connected to the lights behind us.
And we simply put the burner on, the cable will sit there.
For the average person, they won't know the difference between these two cables.
They look pretty much the same.
The only way to find out that it's not any good is by doing tests like this.
Like the fire test.
So, the materials of the good cable in a fire won't give off a lot of smoke.
As you can see here, the outer jacket of the cable has swelled up
and is protecting the inside of the cable,
and you can see there is very little fumes coming off it.
Next up is the counterfeit one.
The fake cable is made of PVC.
That will give off lots of smoke and you will see it burning quite a lot.
The smoke is toxic,
and so that's going to hamper people escaping anyway.
And the material doesn't protect the inside and it fails very quickly.
The camera crew weren't allowed to stay in the chamber
because of the toxic fumes given off in seconds.
The circuit is broken and the emergency lights go out.
With no alarm or lights working,
it would be almost impossible to escape in time.
So, for all sorts of reasons, this is going to be a risk in a fire,
and these are used in hospitals, schools, shopping centres, offices,
so throughout Britain, this cable is there for safety in case of fire.
And this fake cable is going to put people's lives at risk.
The real cable is designed to stay intact for three hours
in burning flames, but the fake fails in less than two minutes.
By the time people realise there's a fire,
it's probably too late because of the toxic smoke.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the rising price of copper
has tempted even more people to make fakes.
Copper is the main component of electrical cables as it carries the current.
The soaring price of it means it takes one bright spark to skimp on the amount they put in a cable
for there to be deadly consequences.
This is piece of flexible cable. It's widely used all around the house.
Kettle leads, extension leads...
Of recent years, copper has become very expensive.
It's gone from £2,000 per tonne to £5,000 per tonne,
so it's created a situation where people are tempted
to scrimp on the amount of copper.
We've found quite a lot of products in the market place where the amount of copper in the cable isn't enough,
sometimes by a small amount, but sometimes by significant amounts.
The cable is marked with the correct size
but the actual amount of copper doesn't comply with that.
This is a very simple test that just looks at the amount of copper
by measuring the resistance of the copper conductor.
The resistance of this size of cable should not be more than 13.3,
but in this case, we'll see a much larger number
because there's a lot less copper in it than there should be.
The resistance should be 13.3, but in this case it's 21.1,
so it could overheat and cause a fire.
So these cables are just as dangerous as the fake fire cable.
Once they find the fakes,
the industry needs to make sure they don't put anyone's lives at risk.
All the fake cable found across the whole of the UK must be destroyed.
It is unravelled and shredded, and the valuable copper and steel
is separated from the rest, and recycled to make new and safe cable.
Coming up - the extraordinary story of what can happen when somebody fakes your identity.
I then got shoved in a cell with - not to put too fine a point on it -
seven drug traffickers.
Fake cigarettes like these are flooding into the UK.
The tobacco industry estimates that, astonishingly,
one in six cigarettes smoked in this country is fake or smuggled.
It is huge business, and as I've discovered, even at the local neighbourhood level,
the amount of fake cigarettes and the criminal cash involved is jaw-dropping.
The problem of fake cigarettes is huge, losing the government
hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue every year.
That's money that could be spent on your local hospital or schools.
Police and Trading Standards in the West Midlands are cracking down on the problem.
Because their officers operate undercover,
we're protecting their identities.
We've been targeting the main supplier of cigarettes, which is a retail premises.
We've done numerous seizures over the last couple of years.
Nothing deters them from selling cigarettes.
They're re-supplying the consumers within 24 hours of us
seizing all the cigarettes from their shop.
So they're changing tactics. Today, they are going for the source of the problem -
the person who they believe is directly supplying the shops with fake cigarettes.
The owner of the house doesn't know that he has been watched
for the past few months and the team are hoping to catch him unawares.
Hello. Can you let us in, please? Police and Trading Standards.
Can you stay there, please? We want to come with you.
The police accompany the suspect upstairs
so that he can't destroy any evidence.
They are convinced there are fake cigarettes here
and they start a painstaking search.
They're even looking in the most unlikely places.
Sometimes they have all sorts of hidden cash,
hidden behind the bath.
Out the back they find a locked garage
which could be the key to where the fake cigarettes are stored.
It'll be easier if we get this open.
Meanwhile, the team upstairs bring in the specialist search dogs,
trained to sniff out tobacco.
In another room, the officers are looking for cash and invoices
to prove that the suspect's been operating a business from here.
What I want to do is seize these because it's written in their language.
It looks like orders of cigarettes, but we can get that analysed
and checked, so we'll seize those.
As the resident is on benefits,
it's suspicious to find a large roll of cash.
We've also got in here a quantity of cash
which will be counted
and will go with the other cash we've found in this bedroom.
Suddenly there's a call from downstairs.
Bingo. It's all in a lock-up in a secure garden.
I think every box here has got something. Look at this.
What have we got, mate? Oh, my goodness! Look at all these bags.
The officers find bags and bags of illegal cigarettes and tobacco.
They find almost half a million fakes in the garage.
It's one of the biggest seizures of fake cigarettes, ever, in the Midlands.
Get them filmed, photographed. We'll get our gloves on
and we'll bag and seal.
The items are thought to be either fake or may have been smuggled
into the country illegally to avoid paying duty.
Britain has the most expensive cigarettes in Europe,
so as the price of cigarettes grows,
so does the trade in fakes, and it's a particular problem for this area.
It's fairly widespread because of the demographics.
People struggle paying full prices for things,
so there's a ready market there for people supplying
these cigarettes, which are up to half price
for what you'd pay normally, retail.
So demand is there and they're taking advantage of that.
You used to be able to spot fake cigarettes by the dodgy packaging.
But now they can be so sophisticated that you'd never be able to tell.
Well, it's nice to see that even counterfeit cigarettes have the Government health advice on them!
They're clearly smuggled,
probably counterfeit as well. That's a Benelux tax stamp, which means that, in theory,
it's trying to purport to show tax has been paid from Benelux countries,
but I would be 90% certain that it's all counterfeit.
Fake cigarettes are illegal.
Not only do criminal gangs steal millions of pounds
from the taxpayer's purse in lost revenue,
but fakes have also been found to contain high levels of tar and nicotine,
as well as huge amounts of lead,
and even arsenic, which can cause cancer.
Outside, the team have finished searching the lock-up
and have found a vast haul of fake cigarettes and rolling tobacco.
They believe all of it was destined to supply the local shops with illegal stocks.
Excellent result. We'd put a lot of hard work into
trying to ascertain what's going on with these suppliers,
so to have a seizure like this is fantastic. The guys estimate there's about half a million here,
with street value of about £200,000.
So it's been a big impact on what's happening
and is exactly the result we were looking for.
Fake cigarettes are a big business run by criminal gangs,
and the penalties for supplying illegal tobacco
can be up to ten years in jail.
We use all sorts of techniques, in various ways,
to identity who is involved, where the supplies are coming from
and how they're networked and operating.
And we'll just progress that and, obviously, today we'll learn
a lot more as well from what we seized
and the people involved and so on.
It's been a successful raid,
the result of months of undercover work to crack down on those breaking the law
and to stub out the trade in fake cigarettes.
Whether it's fine art, a valuable antique
or just general boot-sale bric-a-brac,
owning or collecting something beautiful appeals to a lot of us.
Add in our enthusiasm for a bargain and, all of a sudden,
you can see why the world of the collectable is appealing to the conman.
And I'm going to show you why this painting isn't what its new owner thought it was.
Fake art is big business, and with a never-ending supply of customers,
that business is booming.
A collection of watercolours...
Auction houses like this one in west London sell thousands of genuine antiques a month.
But with a whole new generation of keen art collectors,
the crooks know they can reel you in
if you don't know your Leonardo da Vinci from your DiCaprio.
There's hundreds of reputable dealers at antique fairs.
There's one in 500 a bit dodgy.
You'll never beat experience. People coming in for the first time,
they're looking for things online. We didn't have Google years ago.
They think they know more than they know.
Stephen Large found out the hard way.
Fairly new on the art scene, he has an eye for a bargain...
or so he thought.
I'd been collecting art for a while and, as you can see,
I've got different types, different eras, different periods.
I'd like to say that I know what I'm looking for
but the more you look, there's so much art around,
and the greater choice you have, the less you know, I think you realise.
Browsing for a bargain, he spotted what he thought
was an original 19th-century oil painting.
I went to an antique fair, looking around,
and I wanted to get something I was going to keep as an investment.
So I was browsing around. So when I saw this painting,
I was struck by the colour and size, and the frame was fantastic,
and I thought, "OK, don't declare your interest straightaway.
"Just take a note of that, walk around and come back,"
and I kept on doing that, and going back,
and of course the dealer then realised the bait had been taken.
And I went back and I enquired about it,
and the closer I got, the more impressed I was.
I thought, "This is extremely well created."
I would like to have looked through a magnifying glass, however, the dealer didn't have one available,
so I just had to use my squinty eyes.
He thought the painting was worth £2,000,
so he'd be getting an ideal investment.
He was asking for £1,200,
said there was some negotiation in that. Having been in sales for many, many years,
I eventually ended up buying it for £850.
At the time, I was delighted to have negotiated so much off.
But little did Stephen know that he actually got less than he bargained for.
And then a very good friend of mine, Tom Keane, who is in the auction business, he came round.
I'd been dying to show him, and he said it's fake, no doubt about it.
So there was no glossing over it, the painting was fake.
But there are some tricks of the trade that would have told Stephen that straightaway.
He took it to Chiswick Auction Rooms to nail down exactly
how you tell that a piece of art is fake.
Stephen, I'm going to prove to you the reason why I knew
this is a very good decorative art painting, or even a fake.
This canvas isn't the right thickness for a 19th-century canvas.
If you've got 18th- or 19th-century canvas, it'll feel thicker, a bit more quality.
These are mass-produced for the decorative market, not for the antique market.
These paintings are mass-produced in China
and are turning up in antique fairs around the UK.
They're being sold as antiques rather than what they really are -
brand spanking new.
The Chinese cleverly pick an English or European name and sign them.
We see it all the time so it's not rocket science for me.
You bought a decorative piece worth £200 or £300 for £850, thinking it's the real thing,
and R Bernard doesn't exist.
Chinese factories churn out these copies,
often producing the same unique masterpiece every single day.
The only person who's misled you, really, is the dealer who sold it to you.
He should have been a bit more open and honest and told you, "It's a copy," or whatever it is.
Now, what you've got to look for...
apart from the lovely painting on the front, look at the back.
Yes, I did think it had been relined, but I was obviously wrong.
Yeah, relined. But again, look at the top seam here.
You can see the over-covering - there's no age at all, a bit of stain put in there.
It could have been a new frame on an old painting.
It's very, very deceiving.
Now, this is exactly the same. They are mass-produced in China for hotels and pubs.
Nothing wrong, whatsoever. It's how you sell them that's the problem.
But what about that lovely gilded frame?
Well, it's not surprising that that was a fake too.
-You'll find that's plastic resin. Break it yourself.
Plastic resin. You can't do that in an antique fair.
That frame is the same construction as this frame.
With the frame, you can't tell. It's so good you can't tell.
You need another one next to it, a real one, to be feeling it and comparing it.
It feels lighter in the touch.
Had you paid £200 or £300, I'd have said
you haven't been ripped off, you've got a nice work of art,
but it's never going to be an investment. It is what it is.
But at £850, he'd been ripped off.
The mass-produced fake art from China isn't just paintings.
It's ceramics as well, bits of jade.
It can be a problem. It's how you buy it, how it's sold.
I mean, some people set out to mislead people.
It's more valuable than what it is,
as in Stephen's case where he paid £850 for a painting
that, if he was right, was worth £2,000. He was misled.
If you're buying it as a decorative piece of art at £200 or £300,
the sort of value it would make anyway, not a problem.
But it's the people behind the selling, that's the problem.
New things to the market can mislead even experts like us.
There are very good fakers, and if you're paying £30 or £40 for something
which you think is worth £2,000 or £3,000 - why is it £30 or £40?
You may be lucky, but often, you're getting ripped off.
So £600 out of pocket, Stephen has learnt his lesson.
It's brand new, and a lot more of these are appearing.
I now know it's a complete fake.
This is the most secure form of proof that you are who you say you are - your passport.
But this next story is a real eye-opener,
because it shows you just what can happen when a fraudster comes between you and this.
'It was their 10th wedding anniversary,
'and Tanya and Chris booked a romantic weekend away in Lisbon.
'But any thoughts of beaches, cocktails and romance stopped short when they got to passport control.'
We got about five metres beyond the control desk
and the immigration officer said, "Hold on a second, sir.
"There's a problem with your passport."
After an hour or so, and I'm pacing around obviously feeling a bit hacked off, to say the least,
one of the immigration officers comes in and says to me, "Have you ever been in trouble in Germany?"
I was like, no, but have I done something wrong in Germany in the past? I don't think so!
'And she said, "When was the last time you were in Germany?" And I racked my brains,
'and I'd been there maybe ten years ago on a business trip.'
So I started saying to them very early on, there's a problem here, you have the wrong person.
I don't know what's happening, but this is wrong.
'Every time there were footsteps in the corridor,'
I was thinking it was someone coming to say, "Right, time to go, sorry about that."
'One of the guys said to me, "Oh, by the way, you're going to be extradited to Germany, to Stuttgart,"
and I was like, OK, so first of all I'm taking on the first bit, I'm kind of incarcerated now,
but the idea of being extradited to Germany as well felt an extra layer of terror, to be quite frank.
We had no idea of the charge, no idea whatsoever why he should be facing extradition to Germany,
and no idea why there'd potentially be this muddle.
All I knew was that I was now going to be definitely put in a prison.
It just seemed so unbelievable that this situation could happen.
You start to rack your brains to think, what possibly could put you in the situation
where they're detaining him and taking him to prison?
At that point I was thinking, right, this really is really bad.
This is proper prison, and proper prison as in we get let out into the yard.
'And you think, I'm doing that thing that you see in films
'when you're walking around a yard trying to look tough,
'but internally, obviously, not feeling quite so...'
..quite so strong, shall we say?
That really was, you know, that was a prison in the proper sense of the word.
Inmates banging doors, I got strip searched, which was a new one to me, as well,
and then got shoved in a cell with, not to put too fine a point on it, seven drug traffickers.
'After a sleepless night and a weekend in prison looming for Chris,
'Tanya hired the best lawyer she could find and they went to court on Saturday morning.'
I was cuffed from the cell to court.
Met the lawyer, one of the lawyers there, who told me to be very clear
and state my case very clearly that I was innocent,
that I was a family man, that I was here for a weekend break,
and yet again I'd done nothing wrong and that there must be some sort of problem.
'At last they heard what Chris was charged with,
'but they both knew he was innocent.'
It was a charge of computer fraud that took place in Germany,
and therefore he was facing extradition to Germany to face charges of that.
Somebody was an accomplice in a crime to defraud Hewlett Packard,
and I think it was about 150,000 euros that they defrauded them from.
The judge didn't really appear to take much notice of what I was actually saying,
and pretty quickly it was evident that I was going to be going back to a jail.
'Tanya knew her husband could not have committed this crime, and it must have been somebody else,
'and she finally saw evidence that proved it.'
As soon as Chris was taken away, we actually got to see the paperwork,
the clerk brought us the actual paperwork.
And that is the point at which we saw that the person they were looking for,
under the description, said, "Negroid, black hair, brown eyes."
'Our lawyer went straight back in there to the judge to say,
'this is absolutely ridiculous,'
you've got a description of the person you're seeking
that doesn't match the person you're holding,
and on that basis alone you should allow him to go.
'Knowing for sure that Chris was completely innocent,
'the penny finally dropped as to how all this was possible.'
He'd had his passport stolen ten years ago when he was on his stag do in Amsterdam.
We'd travelled abroad almost every year since then and there's been no problem whatsoever,
so it was literally ten years later that it came back to bite me.
'A fake Chris had used his passport to set up a fake ID
'and carried out a fraud on a major company.
'These are the horrific consequences of just one of the 60,000 British passports
'that are lost or stolen abroad every year,
'which could mean a fair few Brits might find themselves in Chris's position.'
What happened with Chris's passport, it was used in 2000 to set up an identity,
which allowed this individual to set up an identity in Chris's name,
to get a residency permit, to open bank accounts and such.
'Chris spent the weekend stuck in jail,
'unaware that his wife was unravelling the mystery.'
I'm hammering on the door of the holding cell demanding to find out what's going on.
And I was running around crazily trying to deal with this,
to get written evidence of his stolen passport,
because we had to get hold of as much evidence as possible
that demonstrated that somebody had taken his identity.
What we wanted was a photo ID just to say, this is the person they're seeking,
and this is Chris, so there's no similarity.
But the clerk had said to our lawyer that the documentation had arrived
and that it was clear it wasn't Chris.
It felt like nobody really cared that there was quite a serious miscarriage of justice going on,
and that you should be doing everything in your power to get him out of custody,
given that he hasn't done anything wrong.
'On Monday morning, after three whole days in prison,
'Chris was finally brought before the court.'
So I went into the court, the judge had a very quick look
through the dossier which Tanya had amassed over the weekend,
a huge dossier, and he apologised, said, "I'm very sorry, this has been a big mistake,
"and we hope you don't think it reflects badly on Portugal or the Portuguese people,
"and we hope you'd come back again."
It was literally, leave the court room, jump into the taxi,
taxi to airport, and we got on to the flight with a minute, without exaggeration, to spare.
We were running, actually, we had to run to get on to the flight in the end.
And then when we got on the plane, that was that moment of,
"Ah! Thank God. Where's the drinks trolley?!"
'It's happy ever after for them,
'but the fakers are still out there,
'and they could be pretending to be you.'
That's all from Fake Britain today. Bye for now.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
With Dominic Littlewood.
Fake Britain reveals the extraordinary amount of fake electrical cable being found in the UK, and puts some of it to the test, with alarming results.
There's a look at how the trading standards and police teams in the Midlands are cracking down on the huge trade in fake and smuggled cigarettes, and how people are being conned into believing that works of art they bought as antiques are anything but - because they have been made recently in Chinese factories!
Plus, the extraordinary identity theft story of how a UK passport stolen on a stag weekend in Amsterdam put an innocent Brit in prison ten years later in Lisbon - for a crime committed in Germany.