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Italian police bust Chinese-Senegalese counterfeiting ring

today Nov 1, 2009
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ROME, Oct 30, 2009 (AFP) - Italian police have broken up a Chinese-Senegalese luxury goods counterfeiting ring, seizing items worth some 300,000 euros (450,000 dollars), the head of the operation said Friday 30 October.

Valery Hache / AFP

They raided three workshops near Florence, in the central Tuscany region, where Chinese illegal immigrants were working in squalid conditions, Lieutenant Andrea Gobbi told AFP.

Police seized nearly 50,000 items including some 20,000 fake Louis Vuitton and Fendi handbags and some 20,000 toys that did not comply with European safety norms, he said.

The operation began several weeks ago in Venice, in the northeast, where investigators spotted four Senegalese nationals selling fake Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Fendi bags.

They followed the vendors to a warehouse in Mestre, on the mainland across from the lagoon city, which was run by Chinese and supplied by the three workshops discovered in the Florence area.

"It is rare to find such workshops in Italy," Gobbi said by telephone from Venice. "Usually, counterfeit goods are brought in, mostly from China, to be sold in Italy."

He said around 20 illegal Chinese immigrants lived and worked in "terrible conditions," with four or five people sharing a space of 15 to 20 square metres (150-200 square feet).

"There were mice and rats, and the cooking gas was hooked up improperly," Gobbi said.

In a separate operation last week in Tuscany, police seized more than 20,000 square metres of fabric printed with the Louis Vuitton logo as well as more than half a million garments.

That haul was valued at tens of millions of euros.

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