German Customs Impounds Massive Haul of Counterfeit Nikes

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German customs officers have seized what they said could be the world's largest haul of counterfeit goods, including nearly 1 million pairs of knockoff Nike sneakers.

The customs department in the northern port of Hamburg said it had confiscated a total of 117 shipping containers filled with fake goods since the end of August.

The equivalent amount of genuine branded goods would be worth about US$490 million, it said in a statement.

The goods included 101 containers loaded with 945,384 pairs of counterfeit Nike sneakers, and 10 more containers with about 105,000 pairs of fake Adidas and Puma sports shoes. Also impounded were 76,760 knockoff watches and 1,454 toys.

The goods were shipped to Hamburg from Asia and were destined for recipients at addresses — some of the fictitious — in Italy, Austria and Hungary.

The customs department said it was up to brand-name holders such as Nike Inc. to take further legal steps against the suspected smugglers.

Contractors have begun shredding the estimated 1,500 tons of shoes and textiles and trucking the waste to incineration facilities for disposal.

Forty-three of the containers were seized in September as part of a coordinated swoop on counterfeit smugglers in 15 of Europe's major ports.

"Based on the overall value and the number of counterfeit items seized in the 117 containers, this could be the largest counterfeit seizure worldwide," the statement said.