Following a soar during the pandemic, the sale and purchase of counterfeit goods continue to increase. Last year, more than 830,000 counterfeit goods were seized by Belgian Customs, including some very unexpected products.
In 2021, the Belgian Customs and Excise Administration intercepted 838,934 counterfeit goods, according to the FPS Finance's annual report 2021. While this included knock-off smartphones, clothes and perfumes, toys and games made up the largest share of goods that were seized.
A total of 395,998 toys and games were seized by Customs, by far the largest group of products that were intercepted. This was followed by mobile phones with accessories (121,233) and food products, alcohol and beverages (76,434).
Earlier this year, a Europol report highlighted that the distribution of counterfeit goods thrived throughout the pandemic, while some fake products are increasingly being made within the Member States.
Another report showed that young Belgians (aged 15 to 24) buy more counterfeit products than the EU average, with the number of young people intentionally buying counterfeit products in the country having tripled since 2019. Among the younger generation, counterfeit clothing and technology were the most popular products.
Drugs and illegal cigarettes
Aside from counterfeit goods, customs also seized drugs and an increasing number of illegal cigarettes.
In 2021, it seized 90.3 tonnes of cocaine, 12.5 tonnes of cannabis and 985 kg of synthetic drugs, as well as 1,503 kg of heroin and other opiates.
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Last year, a total of 38 illegal cigarette sites were discovered and shut down in Belgium. Of these, nine factories were where cigarettes were produced, three factories were for making water pipe tobacco, and one tobacco-cutting site.
In 2020, a total of 18 such sites were busted in our country, up from 14 sites related to illicit cigarettes in 2019, while 279,499,069 units of cigarettes and tobacco were confiscated, an increase from 2019 (when 1.74 million units were seized), but fewer than in 2020, when the figure skyrocketed to 4.10 million.