Police execute raids at Pacific Mall as part of counterfeit goods investigation
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, June 27, 2018 12:41PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 27, 2018 11:01PM EDT
Police seized thousands of suspected counterfeit items from seven retailers at Markham’s Pacific Mall on Wednesday as part of a months-long investigation.
About 30 officers participated in the raids, beginning at about noon.
Police say that officers seized items ranging from clothing to handbags and cell phone accessories and will now examine those items in cooperation with manufacturers to determine whether they are in fact counterfeit. A search warrant was also executed at a residence belonging to the owner of one of the Pacific Mall businesses that was targeted, according to police. A quantity of suspected counterfeit merchandise was also seized from that address, along with a quantity of cash.
The raids are part of an investigation that began in late April.
“This started out with increased calls with concerns from members of our community. We heard from community members who were aware of this activity and who had concerns about it and we also heard from manufacturers, people who produce legitimate goods who had some concerns about what is going on here,” York Regional Police Const. Laura Nicolle told CTV News Toronto earlier in the day. “It is part of an ongoing investigation and it is going to continue. We will have to see what we seize and go from there.”
Today’s raids come in the wake of the U.S. Office of the Trade Representative including the Pacific Mall on a list of “notorious markets" for counterfeit goods back in January.
The annual report listed 19 brick-and-mortar locations and 25 online retailers, though the Pacific Mall was the only Canadian location on the list.
About a month after the release of the report, the management of the mall launched a website where shoppers could report suspected counterfeit goods and also hired a private investigator to look for counterfeit goods being sold at the mall. The mall also said that it would begin issuing written advisories and warnings to store owners who are selling counterfeit goods.
Speaking with CP24 inside the mall on Wednesday, lawyer Lorne Lipkus said that today’s raids come on the heels of a private investigation led by several brands that he represents.
Lipkus said that investigators went to “numerous locations” at the Pacific Mall to “to locate and identify counterfeit products.” He said that information was then passed on to York Regional Police.
“Over the years we have served cease and desist documents on every single one of the businesses that have been targeted today and they have been warned by lawyers and investigators that what they are doing is illegal,” he said.
Nicolle said that while no arrests were made today, charges could be laid in the future.
For his part, Lipkus said that it is his hope that the raids are proof that police are “finally taking the approach that this is a serious crime.”
“Some of these products have toxic chemicals that are being used to make them, some of them are made in factories where forced labour is being employed. There is no good that can come from buying counterfeit products,” he said.
In a news release issued on Wednesday evening, Pacific Mall said the affected units represent “less than one per cent” of the shopping centre.
“As we monitor this situation closely, we will continue to adopt various practices that will help discourage such behaviour from recurring in the future,” the news release said. “We are grateful for the assistance of the York Regional Police as we endeavor to maintain the public’s confidence in Pacific Mall as a venue where consumers and families can find a wide array of quality products at a great value.”
Police say that “further search warrants will be executed in storage facilities” belonging to the businesses that were searched today.