Johannesburg - A multimillion-rand counterfeit clothing factory was uncovered in an 11-storey building in the Joburg CBD.
During a dawn raid on Friday, police found more than 1 000 hawkers, who sell the goods, waiting outside the building to buy products. They were unaware the police were inside, breaking down heavy steal doors to gain access to storerooms and equipment.
National police spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said that about R30 million worth of counterfeit goods, including jeans, T-shirts, sweaters, headscarves and shoes, were seized. Fake brands of well known clothing manufacturers such as adidas, D&H, Guess and Puma were being made.
The raid was carried out on information supplied through crime intelligence.
The concentration of factories and storerooms for fake goods were found from the seventh to the 11th floor. There is a mosque on the 10th floor.
Sewing machines, counterfeit labels and a variety of coloured dyes were seized. Makgale said the market for these fake goods was mostly hawkers who sold them.
Three people were arrested and will be facing charges of manufacturing and possession of counterfeit goods when they appear at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court today.
Makgale said that police believed other factory owners evaded arrest by escaping through back entrances of the building.
“It is suspected that they might have watched on CCTV cameras that police were entering the building as they are suspected to be operating around the clock. CCTV cameras are being analysed to identify these syndicate members.”
Makgale said further investigations were continuing to establish who owned the building and charges in terms of the Organised Crime Act may be brought against them.
The Star has learnt through a source close to the investigation, who cannot be named, that the factory and its operations were thought to be “untouchable” because of possible corruption involving local police officers.
It is believed that people who ran the shops were bribing officials and while the raid was under way, people who identified themselves as police officers called the arrested suspects, demanding that the place not be raided. The source said it appeared the authorities were aware of the illegal activities, but turned a blind eye and were most likely bribed.
Police, sent from the national office by General Riah Phiyega, believed there would be arrests of officials from the SA Revenue Service and SAPS, and Joburg metro police, who are believed to have an interest in the business.
Investigators believed prosecutors and other court officials have been paid by these illegal owners and a request was made that the matter be moved to a neutral court, not the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court.
The counting of items, with the brand experts from the affected companies, was expected to take about two weeks.