Chinese rail freight train to Europe. Licensed to London News Pictures. 18/01/2017. London, UK. Photo credit: Peter Macdiarmid/LNP

Europol: Criminals could exploit China-Europe rail routes

Criminals could take advantage of the growing rail links between China and Europe as a means to increase the trading of fake consumer goods, says the European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol.

The latest Situation Report into counterfeiting and piracy in Europe published by Europol and EU’s Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) says long-distance trans-Asian cargo trains are a ‘logical choice’ for criminal activity, and that it is likely freight trains will become an increasingly popular target for such illicit activities.

‘could be abused’

Trains from China in particular, says the report, ‘offer a possibility for quick and relatively cheap transportation of goods and could be abused by criminals’. The report, which was published at the IP Enforcement Summit in Berlin, organised by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, EUIPO and the European Commission, offers insights into some of the emerging counterfeiting and piracy trends that have developed since the last such report in 2015.

While traditional sea-based shipping services – anything up to six weeks – remain popular with counterfeiters, train services between China and Europe only take around 18 days, making it an increasingly attractive proposition for counterfeiters keen to get their fake goods onto the open market as quickly as possible.

‘logical choice for counterfeiters’

External border seizures for the trans-Asian rail routes remain low, says the report, with just 12 in 2014 and two in 2015, but many fake goods would benefit from not being delayed by longer shipping times. “The rail solution would appear to be a logical choice for many counterfeit consignments…rail connections could offer concrete advantages to international intellectual property right-infringing criminal networks, and should be kept on the radar,” says the report.

Rob Wainwright, Europol’s Executive Director, said: ‘Intellectual property crime is extensive in the EU and carries very many adverse effects. It harms our economies, generates enormous illicit profits for organised crime groups, and often causes direct physical harm to citizens in the form of the growing supply of fake health and safety goods. This report shines a light on the extent of this criminal phenomenon and calls for more concerted, cross-border action in response.”

infringing consignments

The report adds: “As rail freight services between the EU and China become more numerous and efficient, and China develops its Belt and Road transport infrastructure, which are planned for the coming years, it is thought likely that increasing numbers of IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) -infringing consignments may arrive at the eastern EU external borders by train from where, if they are not intercepted, they could then travel throughout Europe.”

The report can be downloaded from the Europol website.

Author: Simon Weedy

Simon is a journalist for RailFreight.com - a dedicated online platform for all the news about the rail freight sector

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