A financial investigation by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has led to a jail sentence for a husband and wife team who ran a lucrative operation selling fake BMW accessories.
Church warden, Stephen Anderson and his wife Elizabeth, were sentenced to a combined two years in prison, after admitting selling fake BMW merchandise worth millions of pounds, through online auction site, eBay.
The investigation found that the goods, including tyre valve caps, car stickers, and BMW cuff links, were imported regularly from South East Asia via post offices in the East Midlands and Coventry.
The couple, from Ballymena in Northern Ireland, used the proceeds of their illegal business to fund a glamorous lifestyle, buying two luxury sports cars and a huge wardrobe of designer clothing, which were seized by police under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Prosecutors have also requested a confiscation of the couple’s assets which have an estimated value of over £1 million.
The IPO, working closely with BMW, began a covert financial investigation in 2013 which revealed that the Andersons were making more than £40,000 a month.
Speaking after the successful prosecution, Baroness Neville Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property, said: “This is yet another example of the effectiveness of intelligence sharing. The partnership between government, law enforcement, and the private sector is vital in the fight against criminal counterfeiter traders.
“The sale of fake goods online is a challenging area to police, so I am very pleased to see how impactful the financial investigation by the IPO’s Intelligence Hub has been. The government is committed to helping legitimate businesses and police forces stamp out illicit trade whenever and wherever it appears.
BJ Chong, an intellectual property law expert with Palmers, said: “This case underlines the IPO’s determination to pursue and hold to account those who attempt to profit from counterfeit goods.
“The market for prestige car products is considerable and those who deal in ‘knock-off’ goods care little for the fact that they are undermining the considerable costs associated with research and development which, in turn, reduces legitimate profits and ultimately puts jobs at risk.
“Intellectual property crime does not solely target global players. Any company which designs and manufactures products is potentially at risk from counterfeiters. Businesses need to be alert to the risks and should seek professional legal advice if they are concerned that their IP rights are being jeopardised.”
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