OPERATION BILBO CONVICTION

Three men, Esmat Miakhel, Zahid Sediqi (alias Nazar) and Farid Rahimi, pleaded guilty at Wood Green Crown Court on 17th January 2019 to offences of Conspiracy to Sell Counterfeit Goods contrary to Common Law and substantive Offences of selling counterfeit goods contrary to Section 92 of The Trademarks Act 1994. The case against a juvenile involved was withdrawn. Sentence was delayed as a result of request by Defence for the defendant Sediqi for a Newton Hearing to establish his role as a principal. On 8th March 2019, following a two day evidential hearing Judge Perrin ruled that Sediqi was a principal and the men were sentenced.

Zahid Sediqi (alias Nazar), date of birth 01/01/1995, Born Afghanistan, of Carisbrooke Road, E17 was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years, 250 Hours Community Service and £140 fine.

Esmat Miakhel, date of birth 03/04/1993, Born Afghanistan, of Carisbrooke Road, E17 was sentenced to a Community Service Order for 24 months, 250 hours Unpaid Work and a £600 fine.

Farid RAHIMI, date of birth 22/04/1982, Afghanistan, of Ley Street, Ilford IG2 7DB was sentenced to a Community Service Order for 12 months, 60 hours Unpaid Work and a fine of £100.00.

There was a fourth defendant who was a juvenile at the time of the offences. It was decided not to proceed with the prosecution on public interest grounds.

The case was brought by TM Eye as a private criminal prosecution on behalf of MULBERRY, ROLEX, JIMMY CHOO, APPLE and D&G.

The organised criminal network has been disrupted and hit financially. The court accepted that the seized goods in a 2018 raid in Chingford by TM Eye and police equated to an estimated loss to the Brands of £737,408.00. The loss involved in the entire Conspiracy over 6 years would be several million pounds. The value of earlier seizures made by TM Eye in 2012, 2014 and 2016 were not taken into account.

The defendants all Afghan nationals were principals in a criminal network involved in selling fake Apple products, leather goods, handbags, purses, belts and watches at Wembley and Bovingdon markets and at a shop Best Mobile’s in Walthamstow, London. They had been operating their criminal enterprise since 2012. TM Eye had previously convicted one of the men Esmat Miakhel (born 03 04 1993) on 16th November 2012 at Watford Magistrates Court. Miakhel had pleaded guilty to 5 offences on that occasion contrary to The Trade Marks Act 1994. He had been sentenced to a Community Order that required him to perform 150 hours of unpaid work. He was also prohibited from trading in UK markets for two years.

Esmat MIAKHEL

On Sunday 29th January 2012, following a complaint by TM Eye, Brent Trading Standards attended Wembley Market. Esmat Miakhel was identified selling counterfeit goods from his stall there. Trading Standards officers seized 1,200 branded counterfeit items, including Mulberry, Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo handbags and purses. Miakhel signed a disclaimer to the following items; 9 belts, 663 items of jewellery, 431 handbags, 249 purses and 5 scarves and hats and various items of packaging. Miakhel was not prosecuted for these offences but was sent a Letter of Warning from Trading Standards saying he would be prosecuted if he continued with these criminal activities.

Despite the warning Miakhel and his gang continued to operate. TM Eye continued its investigation. On 26th August 2012, a Mercedes van SG 05 NJZ was stopped by police and TM Eye detectives leaving Wembley market in convoy with a black VW Golf driven by Miakhel. This resulted in the seizure of over two thousand fake bags, purses and belts. One of the occupants of the van was Zahid Sediqi. Further surveillance by TM Eye identified that the gang used GBN Storage at 210 Church Road, Leyton E10 to store its illicit goods. Following Miakhel’s conviction in November 2012 the gang cleared out the unit and became more cautious and surveillance aware. Miakhel appears to have handed over the day to day criminal operation to Sediqi.

Between 7th April 2012 and 9th June 2012,TM Eye operatives carried out five test purchases from both Wembley and Bovingdon Markets from Miakhel. The items sold were counterfeit Mulberry and Louis Vuitton handbags. The defendant Sediqi was also present but he had not been identified at that time.

On16th November 2012,at Watford Magistrates Court Miakhel pleaded guilty to 5 offences against the Trade Marks Act. He was sentenced to a Community Order that required him to perform 150 hours of unpaid work. He was also prohibited from trading in UK markets for two years.

Further evidence was gathered against the gang during a TM Eye surveillance operation in 2014. On the 8th November 2014, Miakhel was followed from Bovingdon market to a Yellow Storage facility in Gants Hill where he was seen with seven other males to unload the contents of a box van into a large unit within the Yellow Box Storage. Throughout all TM Eye operational activity a second principal had been evidenced organising and managing stalls operated by the group at Wembley and Bovingdon markets. His identity remained unknown until 2018, when he was identified as Zahid Nazar aka Sediqi (born 01/01/1999) residing at 13 Carisbrooke Road, E17, together with Miakhel.

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On 27th August 2016, TM Eye investigators made three test purchasesfrom a handbag stall at Bovingdon Market. This stall was displaying several hundred counterfeit handbags bearing the names of Mulberry, Jimmy Choo, Prada, Michael Kors and Chanel. Three covert test purchases were made from the same male on this stall. A further two test purchases were made on 29thAugust 2016, from the same stall. Miakhel was observed sitting in the stall but not engaged in the purchases.

On 3rd September 2016, a further test purchasewas made. Esmat Miakhel was seen working on the stall. He was seen arranging handbags.

As a result on 19th August 2017,TM Eye launched Operation Bilbo, the codename for the investigation into the wholesale sale of counterfeit handbags at Bovingdon Market by this criminal gang. The stalls under investigation had been operating almost every Saturday and Bank Holidays over several years. It appeared that the staff, predominantly Afghan males, were rotated with a degree of regularity. Between 21st October 2017 and 23rd December 2017, TM Eye made seven covertly recorded purchases from the defendants. Because of this activity TM Eye conducted further surveillance at Bovingdon Market.

Farid Rahimi was first seen on 23rd September 2017 in the early hours of the morning driving his black VW Golf KV04 SVG in Billet Road E17. He was seen moving a van CN05 NMU to allow him to park his own car. A white Qashqai LL62 SVG, owned by Miakhel, then arrived and parked up. Rahimi drove away in the van with two male passengers. At 06.09hrs the van was seen parked next to the handbag stall and Rahimi and an unknown male were seen unloading black bin liners into the rear of the stall.

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On Saturday 30th September 2017, at 04.40am following information from TM Eye local police officers observed early morning activity in Billet Road E17, around the van CN05 NMU. Police spoke to the group that included Rahimi. They stated that they took the van to Bovingdon Market on behalf of a man called Esmat Khan. Three of these males, importantly Rahimi and another known juvenile had been observed selling counterfeit goods at the market. Sediqi arrived at this point. The police officers asked to look in the rear of the van. Sediqi unlocked the van. In the rear of the van were 63 counterfeit Mulberry branded clutch bags and 55 branded Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel shawls. These were seized. There was also a quantity of unbranded bags that were not seized. The potential loss to the designer companies was £56,800.

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Despite the police stop and seizure, later the same day surveillance was conducted by TM Eye at Bovingdon Market. Sediqi and Rahimi and another male were seen packing up fake goods from their stall.

On 21st October 2017, a TM Eye operative attended Bovingdon market and at about 9.20am saw Rahimi organising the display on one of their dedicated pitches. Displayed were hundreds of counterfeit bags and purses bearing badges of Mulberry, Michael Kors, Chanel, Stella McCartney and others. A test purchaseof a Mulberry handbag was made from Rahimi. 

A further test purchase was made on 28th October 2017. On 4th November 2017, a TM Eye undercover operative attended the market. Rahimi was serving a female customer who appeared to be bulk buying handbags and purses from the stall and putting the purchased goods in black bin liners. A juvenile was assisting on the stall at this time.

On 11th November 2017, a TM Eye undercover operative saw Rahimi and a juvenile working at the stall. On 18th November 2017, a further test purchase of a fake Jimmy Choo bag was made from Rahimi from the same stall. Later that same day at around 8.30am Sediqi/Nazar was seen holding open a bin liner for goods to be placed in for a female who was making a bulk purchase for sale on the internet. Miakhel was seen at this time arranging the displays on the stall.

On 23rd November 2017, surveillance was carried out on Miakhel. He was observed driving the white Qashqai LL62 SVG to premises at Ropewalk Gardens E1. The premises belong to Long and Son Trading who sell unbranded handbags imported from China.

On 25th November 2017 at 4.30amsurveillance evidenced boxes loaded into a lorry KV08 WHN from the storage unit in Argon Road, Chingford by the gang. Sediqi was seen instructing the gang and then leaving in convoy with the lorry.

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Later that morning surveillance commenced at Bovingdon Market. A TM Eye undercover operative was referred to Sediqi who told him he could supply 100 Jimmy Choo/Mulberry bags for £15 each. Individually they were sold on the stall for £20.00. The conversation was covertly recorded.

On 25th November 2017, a further test purchase was made from Rahimi. At 4.10pm the white van KV08 WHN was observed next to the stall. The gang were seen packing the contents of the stall into the rear of the van. A black Vauxhall Insignia KN61 KPY was seen parked next to the stall. This was later seen at the storage unit in Argon Road driven by Rahimi.

At 4.55pm the van KV08 WHN drove up to the second stall in the market. Sediqi and an unknown male got out and walked to this stall and assisted others in packing it up and into the rear of the van. They then left in convoy.

On 23rd December 2017, a test purchase was made from the stall in row B of a black counterfeit Tote style Mulberry bag from Rahami for £20. The genuine article would retail at £995.00. Sediqi was again evidenced in control of the stall.

TM Eye continued to make enquiries into the activities of Miakhel and Sediqi/Nazar. Through surveillance it was established they were selling counterfeit goods from a shop ‘Best Mobiles’ at 143 High Street, Walthamstow, E17.

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Test purchases were made from this shop between 6th March and 22nd March 2018. Items bought included counterfeit branded Apple Lightning Cables and Apple Earpods. It was clear that Miakhel and Sediqi operated a highly sophisticated and profitable criminal operation at the shop during the week and then the stalls at Bovingdon market at the weekend.

On 27th March 2018, police attended the shop in the High Street with TM Eye detectives and established the correct identities of both Miakhel and Sediqi.

On 17th April 2018 TM Eye, operatives with the assistance of the police from the Waltham Forest Crime Squad executed a search warrant at Unit 42. Orbital Business Park, Argon Road, Edmonton N18.

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The unit was stacked full of fake goods in large plastic bags. There were also crates and boxes. On the shelves were dozens of white packets containing counterfeit decals (brand badges) in the names of Jimmy Choo, Prada, D & G, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Mulberry.

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Recovered from the unit were: 659 Mulberry Handbags, 133 Louis Vuitton items, 199 Michael Kors purses and handbags, 51 Ted Baker handbags, 2 Prada handbags, 10 Hermes handbags, 24 Stella McCartney handbags, 4 YSL handbags, 33 Chanel rucksacks, 12 Jimmy Choo handbags, 91 fake watches (Rolex, MK, and Breitling), 4 bin liners containing Ralph Lauren, Polo and Ugg scarves and bags. In total 1,177 counterfeit items.

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There were also 48,000 branded badges and zips (all of the above designer labels with additional Valentino, Marc Jacobs & Fendi) and 2 tool kits, one to fix watches, one to affix badges to bags

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The defendants were still under surveillance at the time of the raid and this enabled TM Eye detectives to serve criminal summons on them to attend court. The case was subsequently transferred to the Crown Court.

TM Eye Director David Mckelvey said, “Operation BILBO was an outstanding piece of detective work involving the TM Eye Luxury Goods Team, the Dedicated Undercover Unit and Surveillance Team, over many years. This criminal gang were surveillance aware following the first conviction in 2012 and the principal Miakhel used lieutenants to continue his criminality. The gang employed young trafficked Afghan males on their stalls who they were aware TM Eye would not prosecute.

Bovingdon and Wembley markets were extremely hostile environments for TM Eye’s experienced undercover operatives to work and very difficult for the surveillance team. It was clear that the gang changed storage venues regularly and vehicles. Despite the difficulties a strong evidential case was built and the principals prosecuted and convicted.”