GLASGOW cops seized more than £2million of suspected counterfeit goods in a massive crackdown on serious and organised crime groups.
The Evening Times can today reveal the huge haul - one of the largest taken in Glasgow - which was seized in the past two months from the Barras market.
Police say the illegal sale of counterfeit goods is part of a network of serious and organised crime, allegedly linked to drug gangs, prostitution and human trafficking.
The latest operation was launched after legitimate market traders raised concerns that crooks were using the Barras market to fund their illegal activities.
As well as disrupting organised crime, senior officers want to make communities safer and reassuring the public is a key part of the initiative.
Chief Inspector David Pettigrew, area commander for East Centre and Calton, said: "Serious and organised criminals are making a lot of money from counterfit goods.
"We have a responsibility to act on this to make communities safer and impact on crime.
"Every pound made from the sale of counterfeit goods goes towards funding serious and organised crime.
"This operation is two-fold. It's about cleaning up the area for the local community and disrupting the activities of serious and orgnaised criminals."
Counterfeiters and illicit traders have been flooding the market with fake designer clothes, trainers, CDs, DVDS, designer watches and jewellery.
Imported alcohol and illegal cigarettes were also seized during the crackdown.
Specially trained officers in the East End are working with a number of partner agencies, including Trading Standards, on the joint operation.
"This is part of an on-going operation aimed at letting the community flourish and getting rid of illicit traders from the area," Chief Inspector Pettigrew said.
"There is a renewed vigour from our partners, and legitimate traders, to take this operation forward and really make a difference.
"Legitimate traders are struggling to a make a living, but we are working hard to make a difference.
"Officers are out there, on the streets, working to make a real difference.
"We have already had some success, but we are determined to continue to disrupt serious and organised crime."
A Police Scotland incident van is deployed to the Barras every weekend.
High-visibility patrols have also been stepped up in a bid to reassure market traders - and deter criminals.
Chief Inspector Pettigrew, said: "The incident van is parked up at the market every weekend.
"As well as providing local people with the reassurance that we are there, the van is also fitted with CCTV, so we can use any footage as evidence.
"By tackling those selling counterfeit goods, police are removing the funds by which serious organised criminals operate, disrupting their criminal activities."
In September, a campaign highlighting the links between the trade in counterfeit goods and organised crime was launched by the Scottish government.
It came after a survey showed almost 90% of Scots do not believe the sale of fake goods is associated with serious criminality
Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill said buying a fake designer handbag or sunglasses might seem "victimless".
But he claimed that money made from the sale of fake goods is often used to fund significant criminal activity.
He added: "We know that serious organised criminals in Scotland will be tenacious in exploiting every avenue in human misery to make money from their illegal doings.
"By tackling the influx of counterfeit goods, police are removing the means by which serious organised criminals operate, curtailing their criminal activities."
Today Chief Inspector Pettigrew echoed the Justice Minister's warnings about the link bewteen fake goods and organised crime gangs.
He said: "There is an element of the community who don't realise that it's not just about saving a few pounds on cigarettes.
"I want to stress to them that that money is going to serious, organised criminals, who are involved in drug dealing, prostituion and human trafficking. People need to realise it's not worth it."
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "Our Trading Standards service works closely with Police Scotland.
"It is important we protect hard-working retailers and help them and their business flourish.
"Shoppers need to know the real cost of what can appear, at first, to be a bargain.
"There is clear evidence linking the trade in fake goods with organised crime.
"Buying a fake watch or a pair of boots often puts money in the pockets of gangsters, who have no qualms about abusing the same communities they trade in."
Anyone any concerns or information about counterfeit goods is asked to call Police Scotland on 101.