Bob Barchiesi has a saying: “If you can make it, they can fake it.”

That was apparent yesterday as more than 400 people from 50 countries gathered for an international intellectual property crime conference in Halifax.

On display were everything from fake handbags to fake circuit breakers — and many of them were indistinguishable from the real thing.


“If you knew where your money was going, you’d probably think twice about (buying counterfeit goods),” said Barchiesi, president of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition.

“The people that are engaged in the sale of counterfeit goods are often engaged in other nefarious criminal conduct. It’s been linked to organized crime, it’s been linked to funding terrorist organizations. It’s not victimless.”

The conference was a forum for police from around the world to share tactics for stopping counterfeiting. It’s a daunting problem. The industry is worth about $500 billion worldwide each year, says Barchiesi.

In the last decade, fakes have dramatically improved their image so they look authentic. But on the inside there are often flaws — such as batteries without the proper vents, so they explode.

“Reputable companies have quality assurance. They do certain testing, and counterfeiters aren’t doing that. They’re there to make money,” said Nada El-Defrawy of Consumer Product Safety Bureau with Health Canada.

“We’re finding in counterfeit shampoo there was some bacterial contamination. Or counterfeit toys fall apart really easily. So you have small components that could be a choking habit for kids. It could be coated with lead.”

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