The Metropolitan Police Force and HMRC have announced that they have arrested 60 people involved in a complex international scam to sell overpriced versions of popular market stall clothing and shoes.
3000 Lacoste Shirts, valued at £250, and thousands of pairs of Calvin Klein underwear were found at three warehouses in the Bluewater shopping centre, together with labelling equipment, which officers described as being used to attach "ludicrous prices" to the poor quality goods.
Commander Phill Weston of the Met Organised Crime division said "This was a very professional gang. Designs for these commonplace items were put together in Italy and then manufactured in China for import into the UK. We intercepted the shipments as they were being delivered to stores here, where they would have been sold for £60-£100 per shirt, a mark-up of 1000% on what many consumers would usually pay for them."
Consumer Protection expert Sam Downes concurred "Externally, the shirts are identical to what you see at your everyday street market, and often they are made in the same factory in the Far East. The labels, the plastic bags, the fabric, all identical. It's awful to think that some people would have paid so much for so little."
The problem faced by many shoppers is that goods such as those seized today are often just too attractive to turn down, despite knowing that they are paying over the odds.
19 year old Darren Hinch, said "You come somewhere flash like this [Bluewater], an' you get in all the shops and these pretty girls are like 'That looks good on you' an' 'Wow, that's a great choice' an' before you know it, you've handed over £50, £100 for what your mates get down Blackbush for a fiver, just in a posh paper bag."
His brother, Danny, agreed.
"Yeah, you get a buzz going out in expensive tops an' stuff, but you know, deep down, it's just a mugs game, innit?"