Spain: Massive Fake Sneaker Ring Taken Down, 7 Arrested

Published: 18 January 2024

Spain Fake SneakersThe initial estimate of the value seized by Spanish police was 2,096,384 euros (US$2,278,958.08). (Photo: Ministerio del interior, License)

By Erika Di Benedetto

Spanish police have dismantled an organized crime syndicate, arresting seven individuals dedicated to the distribution of counterfeit sneakers in Spain, the Interior Ministry reported on Tuesday.

The criminal network operated nine different warehouses and establishments for the distribution of the sneakers, located in Madrid, Toledo, and Alicante.

During the investigation, the police confiscated more than 95,000 counterfeit sneakers and 10,000 euros (US$10,864.45) in cash.

Those arrested were accused of crimes against intellectual property — occurring when someone sells and/or distributes counterfeit goods protected by copyright or brand name, such as sneakers — and smuggling.

The operation, codenamed 'Victoria,' began in May 2023 when investigators, using surveillance and monitoring techniques, observed heightened commercial activities by certain individuals, all of Asian origin.

Police said they were selling fake brand-name sneakers in the industrial areas of Cobo Calleja in Fuenlabrada (Madrid), in Yuncler (Toledo), and in the El Carrús area, in Elche (Alicante).

On Dec. 21, coordinated inspections were launched in Madrid, Toledo, and Elche at the identified factories and warehouses. The inspections revealed a substantial quantity of sneakers, which experts and representatives of various brands confirmed were counterfeit.

The value of the confiscated assets was estimated at more than 2 million euros (over US$2,171,480).

The fake shoe market seems to be a perennial global problem.

According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, most fake shoes enter the U.S. from China, arriving in mislabeled containers.

They are stored in warehouses before being distributed to stores. Identifying those behind the illegal production, distribution, and sales can be challenging when the accompanying documents contain false information, explained the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Putian, a city in southeast China's Fujian Province, stands at the epicenter of China's imitation shoe industry. Despite local government crackdowns, the fake shoes business persists, with its products reaching every corner of the globe.

Just over 80 percent of the counterfeit and pirated goods confiscated by the U.S. government's Intellectual Property Rights Center (IPR) — responsible for tackling the trade in fakes — originate in the People's Republic of China, which includes both mainland China and Hong Kong.

Counterfeiting apparel is big business. In Europe, Europol seized counterfeit clothes, shoes, and accessories worth 87 million euros ( US$94.526.370,00) in June 2023.

The EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) — the European equivalent of the IPR — reported that most seized counterfeit products, related to 258 brands, originated outside Europe, particularly from China, Hong Kong, Turkey, and Vietnam, and were illicitly transported across land borders or by sea.

Europol noted that a majority of the counterfeit items were sports and luxury goods, often advertised by criminals on social media networks.