Illegal and counterfeit goods seized from US candy store and souvenir shops on Oxford Street
Westminster Council leader calls for more scrutiny of people setting up companies in the UK
Westminster Council announced on 3 March that it has seized illegal and counterfeit goods worth £1 million from US candy store and souvenir shops on London’s Oxford Street, during a 15-month operation.
Commenting on the £1 million milestone, Leader of Westminster City Council, Councillor Adam Hug, said that the root of the problem is the lack of governance when setting up a company in the UK. He cites the need for the new Economic Crime Bill to address the loopholes that enable unscrupulous traders to run shell companies.
Almost 7,000 items valued at £145,000 were seized in the latest set of raids, which included: over 2,000 vape pens with double the UK limit of nicotine and a tank size 15 times over the legal limit; over 1,500 counterfeit mobile phone cases; over 1,500 unsafe charging leads; almost 400 power banks with no safety labelling or UK company details; almost 300 unsafe travel adapters; and almost 200 counterfeit EarPods, which were being sold at different price points depending on the customer.
Councillor Adam Hug’s comments in full: “Yesterday’s raid on US candy store and souvenir shops on Oxford Street is the latest in our ongoing operations to stop the sale of unsafe or illegal goods and means that over the past 15 months, we have now seized more than £1m in items from super strength vapes to designer fakes. That is an astonishing amount of fake and potentially dangerous items taken off the streets of the West End. We are dealing here with a sophisticated and determined rack that exploits UK legal loopholes to trade from shop lets. But these people now realise they are dealing with an equally determined council which will protect consumers with ongoing enforcement. We are also chasing £9m in unpaid business rates through the courts. However, as a local authority, we can only do so much. The biggest issue enabling unscrupulous traders is the fact they are usually run by shell companies with fictitious directors. There is a glaring lack of governance around setting up companies in the UK with only cursory checks on who the directors are – frankly, there are more checks involved if you want to get a local authority library lending card. We need the new Economic Crime Bill to help clamp down on these loopholes and to provide government agencies such as Companies House and HMRC with the powers and funding they need. As a council, we are doing all we can – but we need increased cross-government support to make life sour for the sweet shop racketeers.”