£6m counterfeiter sentenced

By on 20/04/2010 in News
Some of the boxes of counterfeit clothing found at the Heath Street premises.

Boxes of counterfeit clothing found at Heath Street premises.

A businessman who operated a massive counterfeit clothing operation has been sentenced today at Birmingham Crown Court, thanks to a major investigation by Trading Standards at Birmingham City Council. Banti Sohal was so brazen that he even attempted to import two more containers of counterfeit clothing while awaiting trial.

Banti Sohal, (41) of Bernard Road, Edgbaston, pleaded guilty to 17 offences; relating to the possession of goods, namely clothing, for the purpose of supply, which bore registered trade marks without the consent of the trade mark proprietors and 1 charge of importing 104,329 items of clothing into the UK which he knew to be infringing copyright. He was sentenced to three and a half year’s imprisonment and ordered to forfeit all the branded clothing for destruction.

fake Nike clothing

Fake Nike clothing

Trading Standards initially received intelligence that a business of which Banti Sohal was a director, N. R. Sohal & Sons Ltd, 6-8 City Road in Birmingham, was involved in the manufacture and supply of counterfeit clothing on a large scale. The subsequent investigation also revealed a further premises belonging to the business at Heath Street Industrial Estate, Smethwick.

When warrants were executed on both addresses, only a small quantity of suspected counterfeit clothing items were found at the City Road address. However, at the Heath Street premises, in excess of 6000 boxes of counterfeit clothing were found. Brands found included; Ecko (2300 boxes), Nike (1900 boxes), Timberland (550 boxes) and Henri Lloyd (550 boxes). Other brands included G-Star Raw, D&G, Lacoste, Fred Perry, McKenzie, Stone Island, NY and Hugo Boss.

Fake Ecko clothing

Fake ECKO clothing

The items were all stored together in an organised manner according to brand, style and quantities. In an upstairs room at the Heath Street premises a number of ‘samples’ of made up garments, fabric swatches and care labels were found.

Sohal had asserted that he had no idea that the clothing was counterfeit, claiming that he had bought the clothing 'blind' and believed it to be unbranded, having not examined a sample beforehand. The discovery of the labels and ‘sample’ garments in the upstairs room directly contradicted this statement. There were also quantities of unbranded clothing, some of which could be ‘matched’ to branded clothing elsewhere in the unit. This led to the belief that Sohal was also arranging for the embroidery of trade marks on to previously unbranded clothing.

The haul was so big that it took Trading Standards officers nearly three weeks to clear the premises of counterfeit clothing.19 articulated lorries were then needed to transport the clothing to secure storage and 32ft x 20ft containers were needed to store the clothing. It had an estimated street value of £6m.

Chris Neville, Head of Trading Standards at Birmingham City Council, said:

“This is the largest counterfeit clothing seizure that we have ever had in Birmingham, and possibly the entire country. Its sheer scale and audacity was astounding.

fake Bench clothing

Fake Bench clothing

Counterfeiting has to be stopped because legitimate businesses cannot compete with cheap, poor quality fakes, particularly in the current economic climate, and local jobs are put at risk.

“We believe that when a buyer made an approach to buy counterfeit merchandise at the City Road address, someone was dispatched to the Heath Street unit to collect the goods, making the chance of any counterfeits being discovered at the main business address negligible.

We also know that Sohal attempted to continue his activities while awaiting trial, as containers were stopped by customs and excise at ports.”

 ENDS

For more information please contact Hayley Meachin on 0121 303 1271/ 07920 750007  hayley.meachin@birmingham.gov.uk

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