Drugs, Guns, And Fake Kicks: Inside The Counterfeit Economy

by MR Magazine Staff

The manufacturing, importing, and selling of counterfeit apparel and accessories—fake designer clothes, sneakers, bags, sunglasses, watches, and other items passed off as the real thing—is a staggeringly complex industry, encompassing a dizzying global network of suppliers, distributors, and sellers. It has proven itself to be a highly adaptable industry, too, making use of emerging online platforms to hawk everything from bootleg Yeezys to fake Rolex watches and bypassing the traditional import-export channels to slide past customs in small packages shipped directly to consumers. It’s also very lucrative. According to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC), the total projected value of the global trade in counterfeit goods in 2015 was $1.77 trillion, a number that is roughly equal to the GDP of Brazil. That amount of money, much of it almost impossible for authorities to trace, attracts criminals looking to fund other illegal activities. Examples like the Charlie Hebdo attack, while not unheard of, are unusual, not only because of the extreme, public nature of the attack, but also because of the clarity of the link between the sale of counterfeit goods and the endpoint of the money trail—in this case, guns and a grenade launcher. Often it’s much more difficult to connect those dots, although they are most certainly connected in some way. According to Foucart and other experts interviewed for this story, profits from the sale of fakes have been traced back to sex trafficking, identity theft, gang violence, and the global drug trade. “Criminality begets other criminality,” he says. “Generally, what we see is a lot of these criminal organizations are not only involved with just counterfeiting.” Read more at Complex.