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Counterfeit Airbags, Counterfeit Booze, Counterfeit... Prunes?


The global market in fakes has been pegged at $650 billion annually. Can it ever be stopped?

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned owners of certain Toyota (NYSE:TM), Chevrolet (NYSE:GM), Honda (NYSE:HMC), Ford (NYSE:F), Volkswagen, and Nissan (OTC:NSANY) models that their cars could be fitted with counterfeit airbags.

Though only 0.1% of the American vehicle fleet is said to be affected, tens of thousands of people may unknowingly be relying on airbags that won't inflate properly, if at all -- and in one case, a counterfeit airbag "fired shards of metal shrapnel on impact," according to the NHTSA.

The knock-off airbags were imported into the country by Chinese businessman Dai Zhensong, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in February and was sentenced to 37 months in prison.

US authorities have gotten quite serious about stemming the tide of counterfeit goods recently, announcing today that two New Hampshire brothers have been sentenced to federal prison for trafficking in counterfeit Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) networking hardware.

Other countries' law enforcement agencies, however, appear to be having slightly less success in getting rid of fakes.

Counterfeit HIV drugs have found their way into the official medical supply chain in South Africa. Counterfeit vodka was recently discovered in England and found to contain paint thinner. And DuPont (NYSE:DD) estimates that 20% of all DuPont-labeled products in Southeast Asia are counterfeit.

"It's a syndicate…they build factories to do that [make fake pesticide]," says Ooi Kok Eng, DuPont's regional head of research and development, explaining to Cambodia Daily that "counterfeit goods often pose health risks to farmers."

While researching this story, I was able to obtain a pack of knock-off Cambodian cigarettes bearing a familiar -- though suspiciously spelled -- brand name:

The smokes are fairly amusing, but counterfeits have, in fact, become a threat to national security here at home.
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