Drugs, counterfeit goods and fraud: French customs report rises

The new annual report shows significant increases in 2021, partly due to the ‘explosion of e-commerce’ during the health crisis

Closeup of French police customs car with word Douanes on the front
The Douanes report summarises the goods and incidents seized and reported over the past year
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The number of counterfeit goods seized in France soared by 62% in 2021, while 30% more drugs were confiscated and financial fraud rose a huge 179%, the new annual Douanes (Customs) report shows.

A total of 9.1 million counterfeit goods were pulled from the market in the last year, the report shows.

The report from the national customs authority la Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects (DGDDI, known colloquially as “Douanes” or Customs) was presented on February 14 by Public Accounts Minister Olivier Dussopt.

It identified that counterfeit goods and financial fraud were among the sectors which saw a significant increase in customs investigation in 2021 compared to 2020.

The spike in counterfeit items transported through “express and postal freight”, due to the rise in online shopping and “the explosion of [e-commerce] trade during the health crisis” has contributed to what the report calls “the counterfeiting phenomenon”.

Counterfeiting now affects “all types of goods”, including “industrial products, toys and foodstuffs”, the report said.

It said that in the past year, Douanes had seized 1.73 million beauty products (such as makeup and perfume); 1.65 million games, toys, and sports goods; and 200,517 items of food or beverages.

In February 2021, Mr Dussopt had already presented a plan to fight rising counterfeiting. It called for:

  • Better cooperation with all stakeholders in the fight against counterfeiting, including e-commerce professionals and consumers

  • Strengthening of intelligence gathering and processing, in particular through the development of artificial intelligence;

  • More checks and a more intense investigation policy;

  • Prosecution of perpetrators in cases considered to be the most sensitive in terms of consumer protection.

In the report, customs authorities stated: “Counterfeiting is a threat to consumer health and safety, but also to the national economy.”

Other key stats from the 2021 report include (all figures are up from 2020):

Drugs and tobacco

  • 115.4 tonnes of drugs seized (up 30.10% since 2020)

  • This includes 18.62 tonnes of cocaine (up 105.5%); 74.86 tonnes of cannabis (up 24.1%), and 466kg of heroin (up 29.5%).

  • 18,284 instances of contraband tobacco being seized, equalling 402.1 tonnes

Financial fraud

  • €125.1m in financial fraud identified or apprehended (up 179%)

  • 330 cases of customs laundering (up 52%)

  • €439.5million recovered (up 44.2%)

Firearm, animal and goods smuggling

  • 371 incidences including protected species

  • 8.82 million toys checked

  • 805 illegal firearms seized

Key customs dates from the past year

  • January: The UK becomes a ‘third country’ to the EU, third-country borders re-established.

  • February: Olivier Dussopt’s anti-counterfeit plan presented at Roissy

  • March: 25,000 archaeological pieces given back to Morocco. One tonne of cocaine seized in the port of Rouen.

  • April: Amiens zoo given 53 seized animal articles, including fur, crocodile skulls and tortoise shells. Three tonnes of cannabis resin seized in Avignon.

  • May: Cultural treasures seized by customs go on display at the Louvre museum. 46 kilos of amphetamines seized. Major “darknet” platform dismantled.

  • June: 347 kilos of cannabis seized. More than €973,000 of illegal notes seized.

  • July: New VAT rules come into force for electronic commerce. Customs officers take part in the July 14 Champs Elysées parade, and the Tokyo Olympic Games.

  • August: 956 kilos of cocaine seized. 50 litres of liquid amphetamine seized. 10,000 dangerous toys destroyed in Strasbourg.

  • September: 403 kilos of cannabis seized in Lyon. 4.2 tonnes of cannabis resin seized from a fishing boat in the south Mediterranean.

  • October: 440 cartons of cigarettes seized. Customs take part in ‘Sustainability Week’ effort.

  • November: 16,000 counterfeit telephone and car parts seized at Toulouse airport. Three seizures of cannabis equalling 1.7 tonnes in less than 72 hours.

  • December: 12,500 non-conforming cosmetic products seized in Le Havre. 19,200 watches and jewellery containing lead seized in Aulnay-du-Bois. Illegal cigarette factory dismantled in Marne-la-Vallée.

The report also focused on Customs’ priorities over the past year, and into 2022.

These included:

  • Establishing a strong “third country” border with the EU

  • Managing the sharp spike in online shopping (France is the second-largest e-commerce market in the EU after Germany)

  • Continuing to fight against the financing of terrorism, drugs, threatened species trafficking, and counterfeiting.

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