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Vienna, 03.03.2019 Customs intercepts 1.5 tonnes of counterfeit roller bearings for heavy industry

Löger: "This customs seizure succeeded in preventing distribution and processing of these counterfeit goods, which would have had catastrophic consequences"

The customs officers at the Lustenau customs office recently intercepted some unusual forgeries. A Turkish freight logistics company wanted to make a customs declaration for 102 individual roller bearings with a total weight of 1.5 tons. An inspection by the customs experts led to the suspicion that the goods were probably counterfeit.

The shipment appeared suspect not only because of the inadequate packaging. For example, the roller bearings, each weighing around 15 kg, were inadequately packed in light cardboard boxes. In addition, the customs officers questioned both the trade and the transport route of these products via Turkey or from Turkey. This contradicted the customs officers' previous experience.

The delivery was also accompanied by an invoice stating the value of the goods to be around EUR 10,000. A search carried out to find out whether the low amount had been paid revealed that the original value of the goods was about fifteen times that amount and actually came to around EUR 150,000.

To establish the facts, Customs contacted the owner of the rights to the roller bearings, the SKF Group, headquartered in Gothenburg and a global technology provider. Within minutes, the goods and the invoice were confirmed as counterfeits.

SKF also identified a certificate presented to customs by the Turkish-born consignee from Lustenau to confirm the authenticity of the goods as counterfeit.

Alarmed at the wide range of counterfeit goods encountered nowadays, Austrian finance minister Hartwig Löger said: "The possible effects of distributing and processing of such fake roller bearings would be catastrophic", and went on to say: "Product piracy violates intellectual property rights and thus has direct economic effects. For the sake of our health and safety, the consequences that poor quality counterfeit products can have on so many areas of our lives must not go unnoticed!”

According to the SKF Group, roller bearings of this type are mainly used in heavy industry: these roller bearings are used in the widest variety of applications, from compressors in alternating current systems to industrial gearboxes in wind power and industrial pumps in power stations. The quality defects that most counterfeit products have usually result in serious safety issues and can often be the cause of damage with unforeseeable consequences.

A failure of roller bearings, for example in the transport sector such as in heavy trucks, or even a failure of the pumps for cooling systems of a power plant due to defective or deficient roller bearings, not only endangers the affected companies and their directly involved workers, in the worst case scenario this can also be a risk to public safety.

Counterfeit goods are not allowed to be released for free circulation pursuant to EU regulations and must therefore be destroyed. In the event that a recipient does not agree to the destruction of counterfeit goods, it is up to the right holder to decide whether to initiate criminal or civil proceedings.

The recipient of the 102 roller bearings in question agreed to the destruction of the goods.

“This seizure of counterfeits in Austria demonstrates the existence of counterfeit bearings also in Europe. At SKF, we are dedicated to protecting our customers of being cheated with counterfeits. Counterfeit bearings are unpredictable and could cause unexpected failures. We do not expect that anyone willingly installs counterfeit bearings in their applications. The challenge for the customers is that the counterfeits are extremely lookalike to genuine products and it is very hard, even impossible, for the layman to see the difference between genuine and counterfeit products. Our advice to customers to avoid being cheated is that the best way of safeguarding authenticity is to source through distributors authorized by SKF!” says Mr. Johan Bravert, Director SKF Group Brand Protection.

The roller bearings at SKF Austria in Steyr will be destroyed so that they can no longer be used as such and thus possible damage can be avoided. The steel will then be recycled.

"These illegal roller bearings can thus no longer cause any damage, but can still serve a meaningful purpose through recycling", Finance Minister Löger said, who was pleased about this type of destruction. "My thanks go to the customs officers who, with their commitment and prudent action, regularly remove potentially dangerous counterfeit goods from circulation - for the protection of the economy and the population!”

Customs investigators are continuing their investigations at full speed.