Dolls, Superman models and toy cars are favorite Christmas gifts for children.
But shoppers should be vigilant, authorities say, as fake toys are flooding the market and are a risk for child safety.
Millions of euros of contraband toys are passing through Romania from China on their way to Western Europe, Radio Free Europe said in a report on Wednesday.
Last week, the coast guard’s border police and customs officers checked four containers from Hong Kong and China, Ziua Constanta reported.
Inside they found thousands of counterfeit items including 20,000 sets of toys that were fake copies of well-known brands.
Radio Free Europe said the toys enter Romania via Constanta and by road.
In the last three years, counterfeit toys worth ‘tens of millions of euros’ have been found at the border and in shops, police said.
Toys retailed for between 5 and 200 euros.
One-third of the illegal toys entered Romania in the last three months of the year ahead of the Christmas period.
Officials say that most counterfeit toys are destined for the Schengen zone.
The toys can be dangerous. Not only are they counterfeit versions of well-known brands, but they haven’t passed rigorous safety tests. They also don’t evade tax.
“The seized toys posed a serious health risk for children. These fake toys had not been subjected to the rigorous safety tests required by law and had no warnings or advice on the packaging,” a Europol press statement in November said.
A fake Lego game sells for at least 100 euros in Western Europe and 50 euros in Romania,” a border police officer told RFE/RL.
They are sold illegally in France, Italy, Germany or the UK.
Romanian customs say that 80% of illegal toys come from China and Turkey. Chinese toys come through Constanta while the Turkish ones come by road from south.
The three ‘toy routes’
China-România (Constanța port – Hungary which is in the Schengen area
Turkey to Greece/Albania to Serbia/Bulgaria – România by road and then to Hungary which is in Schengen
Ukraine/Moldova to România then Hungary.
The routes were discovered during EU investigation from October 2020 to January 2021.
Close to 5 million counterfeit toys have been confiscated as a result of Operation LUDUS organized by Europol with the support of OLAF and the EUIPO.
Over 4, 700 inspections were carried out across 24 countries to detect the illegal shipment and storage of counterfeit toys. Eleven fraudsters were initially arrested, with investigations ongoing, a statement said.
It was the first operation ever organized on such a scale targeting the sale of counterfeit toys.