ROME -- Italy's financial police Tuesday said four Chinese businessmen were under investigation after officers seized 18 million counterfeit goods, including clothes, toys and kitchenware, in two raids in Padua and Rome.
The Padua operation in northern Italy saw 11 million items confiscated "in the biggest raid this year," officer Luca Gelormino said.
In Rome, street vendors peddling the wares in the capital unwittingly lead police to the warehouses where the goods were being held, sparking a search of vehicles leaving the site and uncovering some four million illegally imported items, police said.
"The raid was fast-tracked when we found counterfeit make-up products containing very harmful substances," said Teodoro Gallone, the officer who was in charge of the operation.
A stop and search of a truck with Lithuanian number plates also uncovered 1,500 boxes stuffed with 2.5 million fake Italian brand 'Pompea' socks.
The products were smuggled into Italy from Britain under false documents, Gallone said.
A 49-year-old Chinese businessman known only by the initials Y. B. is under investigation in Rome following the raid, as are three of his fellow countrymen in Padua, the officers said.
The three in the ancient northern city near Venice had already made six million euros (US$7.9 million) from the scam, they said.
"We found toys and kitchen utensils made of plastic that came from European garbage dumped in China," Gelormino said.
"The next step will be to reach the very places in China where goods are produced," he said.
According to Italy's anti-counterfeiting agency, Indicam, about 60% of fake goods sold in Italy are clothes and accessories.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013