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China to Australia Counterfeit Auto Parts Connection

By Ron Alvarez

It was widely reported in late May that Chinese authorities conducted a raid in the Guangzhou region, and seized 33,000 fake Toyota auto parts bound for Australia, as well as 55,000 bogus Toyota boxes.

According to news reports, Australian undercover operatives entered the facilities of two independent distributors of Toyota auto parts, in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively, and purchased an assortment of parts. The assortment included parts such as airbags and oil filters. The team brought the collection of parts back to Toyota’s testing site and determined that they were fake. But did the distributors cooperate, even after they had been presented with proof of the substandard elements of the parts? No, they did not.

So, Toyota took the distributors to Australian Federal court, in which (it appears) the prospect of additional legal liability encouraged them to cooperate. The information they then provided—as to the source of the bogus parts—lead to the counterfeit manufacturing plant in Guangzhou.[1]

One-Two-Three Anti-Counterfeiting Strategy

This case illustrates the benefits of a: one-two-three punch strategy to combat counterfeiting:

  • First, get confirmation that a “stop” on the supply chain is distributing fake parts;
  • Second, gather information about the source of the fake parts from the distributor either through their recognition in the error of their ways, or, through legal pressure; and,
  • Third, analyze and verify as much of the information as possible, and determine how best to obtain maximum benefit from the information.

This approach, of course, is a fundamental strategy used to apply pressure to persons that are (knowingly or unknowingly) participating at a lower level of a criminal enterprise in order to gather information on those at a higher level.

The Australian case also illustrates I believe, the benefits of combining distributor integrity testing with subsequent legal action, yet, I found it interesting to learn that according to one report, “it is the first time the Japanese giant has taken legal action in Australia against sellers of bogus parts.”[2]

In this case, Toyota made the decision to notify Chinese law-enforcement, which led to the successful raid. However, it is important to keep in mind that each information opportunity needs to be carefully assessed on its own merits before execution. Premature execution of a raid could jeopardize the opportunity to obtain additional valuable intelligence. On the other hand, failure to act expeditiously could result in the information being leaked to the counterfeiters prior to execution resulting in their slipping away, and/or critical evidence lost.

In any case, the objective is to obtain maximum (short-term or long-term) benefit from the information acquired by thorough evaluation, and thoughtful consideration of the most advantageous way and time to execute.

[1] “Police Find $1 Million Worth of Fake Car Safety Parts Destined for Australia in Chinese Factory”

http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/motoring/police-find-1-million-worth-of-fake-car-safety-parts-destined-for-australia-in-chinese-factory/news-story/427ccd2ce180c007caa7531c8c029a0f

[2] “Toyota Takes on Independents for Selling Fake Parts”

http://aada.asn.au/toyota-takes-on-independents-for-selling-fake-parts/

 

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Ron Alvarez is an IP Investigations / Protection writer and licensed private investigator in New York City. He is a former NYPD lieutenant where he investigated robbery, narcotics, internal affairs, and fine art theft cases. Ron is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a B.A. in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He has published a number of articles on various investigative topics for PI Magazine. Ron is certified by the Interpol-International IP Crime Investigators College (IIPCIC.) as a "Transnational and Organized Crime Intellectual Property (IP) Investigator."

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