Smugglers

Tuesday, 3 April 2012, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

Filmed over two years, This Smugglers special documentary trails detectives from the City of London Police as they secretly track and arrest a gang smuggling millions of pounds worth of counterfeit goods into Britain. 

Detective Superintendent David Clark from The City of London Police explains how the gang’s smuggling network stretched from China across Europe into Britain. 

“This is a global smuggling network that has been brought to its knees today, make no mistake about that. It is not just about the people we have in custody who are flooding the UK market, we are talking the best part of 30 containers taken out circulation in the US and we have got the key king pin players in custody as well out in Guam.” 

The compelling new documentary for ITV1 reveals how the trade in counterfeit goods is worth an estimated £1 billion a year, which is as lucrative as the cannabis market in Britain. The vast majority of counterfeit goods slip through our borders undetected every year, as criminal gangs become ever more intelligent in concealing their operations. 

Detectives receive intelligence about the first shipment arriving at Felixstowe, Britain’s largest container port. The smugglers have listed the container as carrying furniture parts, but inside are copies of some of Nike’s top selling trainers. 

In the space of three weeks, detectives secretly track the gang as they take delivery of three container loads of counterfeit trainers. For the first time, cameras follow the meticulous police surveillance operation over many months to identify the gang members involved, and discover how their large profits are being laundered through a front business and hidden in safety deposit boxes. 

Detective Superintendent David Clark explains how the gang has gone to great lengths to avoid detection by using a series of false identities. 

“They don’t dress up specifically well, they don’t drive high powered or high value motor vehicles, they just live under that radar, but the more that you get into them, the more that you see how well organised they are, how well oiled their machine is, and the propensity and size of the illegal trade they are operating.” 

In a dramatic dawn raid involving 200 officers at several locations across London the four gang members are arrested and £1 million worth of counterfeit goods and £480,000 in cash is seized. 

Documents taken from the gang’s warehouses reveal they were making so much money they were also smuggling their goods via airfreight into East Midlands, Coventry and Heathrow Airport. 

DC Graeme Ord explains “The scale of this operation is vast, we reckon today we will fill three 40 foot containers full of counterfeit shoes and other bits of counterfeit clothing. Some of this stuff has been brought in from Athens and clearly they are very well connected throughout the smuggling world and the counterfeit world.” 

Further documentation found in the gang’s warehouses show Customs had seized and destroyed several of the gang’s consignments at various airports dating right back to 2008. But no arrests were ever made as the gang used a series of false identities to hide their tracks. 

DC Barry Butler highlights how the past seizures of counterfeit goods failed to deter the gang. 

“Obviously when they have suffered frustrations through customs intercepts they have looked to use and deploy a different method to get their goods into the country.” 

Believing they were invincible, the gang upped the ante, changing routes and importing on an industrial scale. 

Detective Superintendent David Clark states “When a group thinks it’s so easy and when they are beyond detection, and when they have got their structure set out in such a profound way and they have been doing it for such a long time to get there, it becomes almost in their mind a legitimate business and there’s a legitimate way of surviving on the earth and earning money, so their get out would be retirement like the rest of us.” 

The gang’s smuggling operation far exceeded detectives’ suspicions. Over three years the gang had smuggled an estimated 150,000 pairs of counterfeit trainers, worth up to £3-5 million pounds on the black market. Samples of counterfeit clothing and shoes from many high street brands, including Prada, Gucci, D and G, Versace, Bathing Ape, Nike and Adidas were also seized. 

Detective Superintendent David Clark explains “These guys have been in that underworld for some time I have no doubt about that. Your connections grow and when you are trusted buy one person they will reference you into another person, so it’s criminal trust. These people operating within this crime group are absolutely and fundamentally one of the biggest counterfeiting groups in the UK.” 

In January 2012 a jury found the gang members guilty of money laundering and conspiracy. Elies Dehimi and Maroud Abad received five years. Sid Dehimi three and a half years. Zouhier Habet was also found guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing. 

DCS Steve Head highlights the misery that lies behind the crime “This is not a victimless crime, there are people living in abject slavery around the world who are creating these goods for these smugglers, people who are working in the most horrendous conditions. They are slaves to these gangs.” 

This documentary is the third programme in the successful Smugglers series which shows how the UK is a country of choice for smugglers. With 12,000 miles of coastline and some of the busiest ports in Europe, Britain is a very tempting target. The series highlights how the more sophisticated smuggling gangs are diversifying into lucrative new markets. DCS Stephen Head highlights the challenge for the police “When you have got huge returns when you talking about billions of pounds then you will be talking about people who are extremely bright, extremely greedy, extremely ruthless, but extremely bright and you know what they will be clever and they will test us.” 

Wild Pictures, the makers of the acclaimed documentary series Strangeways, In the Line of Fire, Fraud Squad and Wormwood Scrubs, gained unique access to the covert operation by the City of London Police. 

The series producer and director is Tom Anstiss and the executive producer is Paul Hamann.

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