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Report on Counterfeiting and Organized Crime. The Italian Case

The report highlights the increasing penetration of counterfeit goods in regular channels

The report “Counterfeiting as an activity managed by transnational organized crime - The Italian case” was produced by UNICRI with the support of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development (Direzione Generale Lotta alla Contraffazione).

The Report promotes a better understanding of the involvement of transnational criminal networks in counterfeiting activities. Given the strong interest espressed by the MiSE and the important role played by Italian criminal organizations in the counterfeiting trade, the existing situation on the Italian territory has been analysed as a case study. The research efforts led to the mapping of the involvement of criminal organizations in Italy, highlighting their connections to other criminal groups and the links that exist betwee counterfeiting and other illicit traffics managed by transnational criminal networks.

The analysis was aimed at:

  • Identifying investigations, court cases, data and information that prove the involvement of organized crime in counterfeiting activities;
  • Highlighting the transnationality of counterfeiting and the functioning of related criminal networks;
  • Presenting the specific role played by counterfeiting in organized crime’s strategies as a significant source of funds and an effective money laundering mechanism;
  • Examining investigations, court cases and data proving the interconnection between counterfeiting and other illicit traffics, such as drug trafficking, arms smuggling and human trafficking;

The analysis of the investigations and court cases confirmed the actual involvement of organized crime in different phases of the management of counterfeiting crimes in Italy. As for the production phase and the retrieval of raw materials, the information collected confirmed the prominent role played by Southeast Asia as a region of origin and export, mostly because of cost efficiency reasons. Ordering counterfeit products through online catalogues is also increasingly widespread within organized crime’s strategies. Nonetheless, these sourcing methods exist alongside with a local production of counterfeit goods that is still present in Italy and is mainly concentrated in the hinterland of Naples, in Lombardy and Tuscany.

One of the most interesting aspects highlighted by the report is the increasing penetration of counterfeit goods into the regular selling channels. It appears that while in many cases the sellers are informed about the real nature of the goods and they are partners in crime, in other cases they are themselves victims of organized crime, which often imposes the selling of counterfeit products as a form of extortion.

The analysis also outlined the important involvement of the Camorra and the main clans active in counterfeiting activities in both the South and North of the country. An increasing interest by the ‘Ndrangheta was also revealed, mainly concentrated in the area of the Gioia Tauro’s seaport. For what concerns Chinese criminal networks, their presence in Italy appears to be more and more “organized”, with a significative involvement mainly in counterfeiting as well as smuggling of illegal goods, illegal migration, extortion and money laundering. The investigations and court cases analysed show that Chinese organisations often operate in agreement and in cooperation with the Camorra.

The research will serve as a basis for the design of a more comprehensive strategy of the Italian government against counterfeiting and organized crime.