US and European authorities said Monday they seized 132 websites in a transatlantic law enforcement crackdown on online sellers of counterfeit merchandise.
The seizure was the latest in a string of efforts by US officials to shut down online forgers, but it was the first joint effort with EU officials.
Monday’s announcement was the result of a joint probe by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with authorities from Britain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania and the European Police Office (EUROPOL), according to a statement released in Washington.
ICE Director John Morton said the sites were selling a wide range of illegally copied products including Nike apparel, Ergobaby carriers and Hermes luxury goods, “all of it fake, all of its substandard quality.”
“These websites were stealing from legitimate websites and copyright holders and the people who make these products,” Morton told a conference call.
Morton said the operation coincided with “Cyber Monday,” a major online shopping day following the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the United States.
“This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners,” said Morton.
“It’s a huge problem not only for US industry, but for legitimate industries in Europe and Asia and elsewhere. Just think of all the jobs that are lost, think of all the tax revenues that are lost.”
Among the brands being counterfeited were McAfee, Symantec, Armani, Guess, Burberry, Chanel, Gucci, Lacoste, Dior, Tommy Hilfiger, Versace, YSL and Michael Kors, officials said.
The domains seized were not only .com websites, but those ending in .eu, .be, .dk, .fr, .ro and .uk.
The netted domain names are now in the custody of the governments, which have placed banners notifying visitors of the seizure.
US officials have been using this procedure for several years in anti-counterfeiting operations, but rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have complained that the actions amount to unconstitutional seizures without due process.