Illegal goods shipped to Africa

Illegal goods seized during the past 12 months have been saved from landfill and shipped out to help people in a stricken African nation.

Counterfeit clothing and bootleg CDs, DVDs and computer games confiscated in raids will all be reused thanks to the project between a charity and Trading Standards chiefs.

Thirty five bags of T-shirts and jumpers, illegally bearing the names of designer labels, have been stripped of logos before being rebranded and sent to Liberia for those living in poverty.

Fifteen thousand pirate discs were also taken to be granulated, with the plastic to be used to coat pencils and make rulers.

A member of charity His Church visited Durham County Hall to load a vehicle with packages filled with items, which have been uncovered by Durham County Council's Trading Standards department during the last year from houses, business addresses, markets and car boot sales.

They included bags and clothing seized in a raid on the home of Seaham woman Fiona Downes, who was put before the courts when 80,000-worth of fake goods were found at her home.

Trading Standards officer Craig Hudson said: "At this time of year many people around the world are less fortunate than those in more prosperous countries and have little to look forward to.

"We are pleased to be finding a good home for the counterfeit goods seized this year.

"Counterfeiting is far from a being a victimless crime. The money generated from supplying goods often funds other areas of criminal activity that affects our communities, such as drug dealing and loan sharks that prey on the vulnerable.

"Lost sales of genuine items can ultimately affect jobs in the manufacturing and retail sector.

"People involved in selling counterfeits are basically committing theft of someone else's property. They pay no tax and are often found to be defrauding other systems such as benefit claims."

In addition to items collected from County Durham, councils in Hartlepool, South Tyneside, Stockton and Northumberland were also collected to send on.

Richard Humphrey, co-ordinator for the charity, said: "We've just come back from Liberia and saw for ourselves what a difference it makes.

"It's great for Trading Standards, who have got a problem with storage and they want to reduce landfill and the cost that incurs."

The charity, which is based in Bedfordshire, also works alongside toy producers and other companies on similar projects when illegal goods have been seized and sends off food packages.

Although it is a Christian organisation, it does not restrict who benefits from its aid.