Fake Gucci bags “fund terrorism”

Here we go again: Interpol claims that fake goods fund terrorism, although they haven’t bothered to say which groups, or how the funding gets to them from street sellers in the Med.

“When you buy for example a counterfeit watch, the money is channeled into the pockets of Mafia groups, terrorist groups,” said Jean-Michel Louboutin, executive director of police services at Interpol.

I’m baffled by this. Given that the links between organised crime and counterfeiting are well-established, what’s the benefit of trying to shoehorn terrorism in there when there’s little or no evidence of such a connection? Mafia groups, definitely, but the only established terrorism links that Interpol has ever given us are counterfeit brake parts in the middle east (linked to organised crime gangs, some of whose members had hezbollah links) and counterfeit goods in Northern Ireland (sold by paramilitary groups, who are effectively organised crime these days anyway).

The purpose of the claim, says Reuters, is to “rally consumer support behind a global campaign against counterfeiting”. So why peg the campaign on such a shaky premise? There are sound reasons to avoid counterfeit goods: they’re responsible for job losses and reduced tax income; the people who make the goods often work in shockingly bad conditions that make sweatshops seem a model of worker protection; perfumes and other substances can cause nasty skin burns; and in the case of Burberry – in Scotland at least – owning the stuff makes people laugh at you behind your back. That’s a pretty compelling bunch of reasons to forgo fakes, and the various campaign groups would be better off focusing on them instead of trying to conjure up the bogeyman of terrorism.