What is counterfeiting?

Extent, characteristics and enforcement action

Counterfeiting is a typical manifestation of economic-financial illegality closely linked to offenses such as the evasion of tax and social security contributions, black and irregular labor exploitation, facilitating illegal immigration and the laundering and re-investment of illicit proceeds.
According to data from official sources and survey agencies, the turnover of the so-called “counterfeit industry” in our Country amounts to almost 7 billion euros. In particular, a survey completed by the CENSIS, ordered by the General Directorate for Counterfeiting – Patents and Trademarks Office of the Economic Development Ministry, - estimates that, in terms of revenue loss, counterfeiting accounts for almost 5 billion euros, equal to 1.74% of the total state revenue.  
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Extent, Characteristics and more Information about counterfeiting

- 2012 Final CENSIS Report -

The results achieved by the enforcement action conducted by the Guardia di Finanza e other Police Forces allow to identify two peculiar elements underlining the evolutionary trends of this illegal phenomenon.
The first is that in recent years the “counterfeit market” has seen an exponential growth in size   considering that the seizures of counterfeit or dangerous products conducted by the Guardia di finanza alone has risen from 90 million in 2006 to over 393 million in 2015.
The second peculiarity that was noted is the extreme extension and variety of products being counterfeited, which include not only luxury goods or expensive commodities, typically in the clothing sector, but also the most varied and widely used consumption goods.
In an increasingly diverse picture, in which no product is immune from the risk of counterfeiting, the most alarming aspect is the rise in the number of seizures of products that are dangerous for the purchasers’ health and for public safety: especially toys, infant products or medicines.
The chart below, broken down by goods sectors, shows the products seized by the Guardia di Finanza in the last decade.
Source: G. di F.
This global framework concretely and finally proves the considerable interests and the growing involvement of organized crime, both national and foreign, due to the high profitability of such traffics.
In 2015 alone, the subjects reported by the Corps to the Judicial Authorities were 9,416.
Half of the subjects reported for counterfeiting are Italian (precisely  52,34%), compared to foreign subjects which, however considerable as a whole, mostly include individuals from Senegal (18,38%), China (14,44%), Bangladesh (5,72%) e Moroccans (3,72%) (see chart below).
Source: G. di F.
According to the latest European Commission report, nearly 65% of the counterfeit goods production is from China, while in the Mediterranean area the main sources are the eastern areas.
copertina report commissione europea
- Results at the EU border 2012 -
A number of enforcement operations have involved seizures of goods for which the importation formalities were not processed in Italy but in other EU Member States: however, nearly 95% of the seizures made by the Guardia di Finanza in the course of  2013 were effected outside the Customs Areas.
On the other hand, investigations have established that counterfeit products manufactured in the Italian “counterfeit manufacturing districts” (mainly the Naples area, the Florence-Prato area and in the Lombardy, Veneto, Latium and Marche regions), are distributed, besides the Italian markets, also in various European countries also through door-to-door sales under the control of organized crime.
In 2015 over 11,000 enforcement operations allowed to seize more than 393 million products (see. table below).
Source: G. di F. 
Numerous findings also confirm that the Internet network should rightly be considered as the  “new frontier” of counterfeiting and piracy, considering its enormous ease of access, the unparalleled speed of the transactions and the guarantee of a substantial degree of anonymity for suppliers and clients alike. In the last 3 years, the Guardia di Finanza carried out 956 seizures of Websites, of which 603 in 2015 alone.
The above mentioned extent of the counterfeiting and the relevant evolutionary trends of the phenomenon have required a countering action which is also based on international cooperation and inter-institutional collaboration.
In this perspective an important multi-agency concertation platform was introduced in 2004 at the Ministry of Internal Affairs – Central Criminal Police Directorate, leading to a systematic exchange between experts of the Guardia di Finanza, Carabinieri and State Police forces, all being part of a working group that also includes the Association of Italian Municipalities and the S.I.A.E. (Italian Authors and Publishers Association).
Cooperation with the General Directorate for the Fight Against Counterfeiting – U.I.B.M. - Ministry for Economic Development and with the National Anti-Counterfeiting Council (C.N.A.C.) have also been consolidated.


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The Ministry for Economic Development has also initiated Project IPERICO (acronym for Intellectual Property – Elaborated Report of the Investigation on Counterfeiting), which is an integrated database on the activity conducted against counterfeiting.

   banca dati iperico

Also, at the EU level, a “European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights” was recently established, in response to the need of ensuring the protection of industrial and intellectual rights through the promotion of information exchange and good practices among EU Member States.  
bandiera europea
From an actual law enforcement perspective, the Corps’ activity consists in an average of 32 anti-countering actions daily.
In detail, the countering system of the Guardia di Finanza is performed along 3 distinct lines.
The first line is the presence of GdF officers in the Customs areas, with the aim of intercepting illicit traffics of counterfeit and dangerous goods from non-UE countries, before they are introduced in the national commercial trade circuits.
This is only the “first line” used to counter the “fake market”, considering that only 10% of the imported goods – due to the enormous volume of trade – is inspected by Customs.
The second countering line is the systematic economic control of the territory, carried out by our street patrols who coordinate and cooperate with the other Police Forces and local police agencies, to ensure a timely and diffused response to minor illicit traffics and retail sales. 
The third line is ensured by the actual investigative activity conducted by the Tax Police units which is oriented not towards the seizure when the sale is made to the public, but mainly to identify, also through an incisive and consolidated intelligence activity, the entire “fake distribution line” in order to identify the importation channels, the illegal production sites, the storage areas and also the major distribution networks for the counterfeit goods.
The latter factor represents the most qualifying aspect of the Guardia di Finanza’s enforcement action, which allows to dismantle the covers behind which the criminal organizations hide the persons responsible for the traffics, the proceeds of their activities and the resulting re-investments, and also to identify the places where the counterfeit merchandise is assembled.
In this context, the economic and financial police functions are capable of allowing to implement the necessary interdisciplinary approach to address these forms of illegality.
The “transversal” dimension is always present, and only a “global” view, guaranteed by a synergic combination between risk analyses, territory control and investigations, can allow to achieve better, far reaching and lasting results.
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