Wandsworth Student To Pay £90k After Fake Goods Bust

Zhanhong Zheng masterminded a £3m counterfeit goods racket

The 25-year-old mastermind behind a £3m counterfeit goods racket has been ordered to pay tens of thousands of pounds in ill-gotten gains to the public purse.

Zhanhong Zheng prompted a public health alert after it emerged he was selling fake designer brand jewellery and cufflinks containing high levels of poisonous nickel.

The foreign student was arrested following a major investigation by Wandsworth Council's Trading Standards officers, who - in one of UK Trading Standards' largest counterfeit jewellery seizures - discovered he had amassed a £3m haul of fake jewellery, pens, sunglasses, and handbags.

At Kingston Crown Court on May 29th a judge made a confiscation order of £66,790 and told Zheng to pay costs to Wandsworth Council amounting to £23,700.

Added to the seizure of £560 in cash from Zheng's criminal enterprise, a total of £91,050 was recovered through a Proceeds of Crime hearing brought about by Wandsworth Trading Standards.

The council's cabinet member for community safety, Councillor Jonathan Cook, said: "This hearing brings to a close a case involving one of the country's largest seizures of counterfeit goods carried out by Trading Standards officers in terms of the value of the goods seized - and it was certainly the biggest ever in Wandsworth.

"It was a sophisticated and organised operation and I am pleased that this order, together with the destruction of all the jewellery seized, has demonstrated that the courts will wipe out all personal profits from this type of crime.

"It also sends out a strong warning that Wandsworth will use the full force of the law against counterfeiters. In this instance, the goods were not just poor value for money, but they were positively dangerous."

Zheng, of Draycott Court, Battersea, had previously been given an 18 month prison sentence at Kingston Crown Court on November 3 2011 after he pleaded guilty to 15 counts under the Trade Marks Act 1994 for unauthorised use of a trade mark and one count under the REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 for placing on the market articles of jewellery that exceed the limit of nickel release set down in the regulations.

Scientific tests on pieces of jewellery he was selling conducted at the Birmingham Assay Office revealed they contained levels of nickel up to 28 times higher than health and safety laws allow.

He had been keeping the dodgy merchandise in a storage unit in Battersea and selling it at markets in Wandsworth, Kempton Park , Bovingdon, Wembley and Dagenham.

Zheng, who claimed the goods were genuine products from brands such as Chanel, Rolex, Dior, Gucci and Swarovski, also sold items online and from stalls in shopping centres in the south east.

He even set up a website and registered his own trademark - Franz Loussica jewellery - as a front to disguise his counterfeiting operation. Most of the pieces turned out to be nothing more than gold or silver plated brass.

After the council-led seizure in 2010, more than 9,000 items of fake designer goods, which had a retail value in excess of £3m, were ordered to be destroyed.

Officers believe Zheng, who came to the UK from China in 2003 on a post study work visa, had been running the racket for at least two years. He was ordered to be deported at the completion of his sentence.

June 11, 2012