Amateur entrepreneurs overrun by gangs

Bootleg sales of clothing, leather accessories, sunglasses, CDs and even farm products are increasingly being controlled by organized crime, according to police officials. Hundreds of street vendors, most of them immigrants who lay out their wares on sidewalks, in squares and at metro stations, are no longer self-employed but are more likely to be working for racketeers pushing smuggled goods. The situation is of concern to officials who say the checks on these vendors are cursory. «Patrols by mixed teams of municipal and state police do not serve much purpose. The only penalty imposed on illegal vendors is the confiscation of their goods by the municipal police. The state police members of the team simply check the vendor’s residence permit,» said one official, who added that the vendors quickly gather up their wares and race off to hide out of the sight of police patrols, only to come out again when the patrol has passed by. «We have the patrols to show that we are doing something, but they serve no real purpose,» the official said. Confiscation of the goods costs the vendor very little. Items being sold for 5-10 euros usually cost less than that, and the vendor sustains the loss only if he himself has bought the goods to sell, rather than being in the employ of an importer-wholesaler, a trend that has emerged in the last few months. The wholesalers who import these goods don’t wait for a vendor to find the money for the goods. They want to get rid of their imports quickly, so they recruit vendors at a daily wage, provide them with the goods and, in some cases, give them a percentage of the sales as an incentive. Warehouse inspections «If we really want to deal with the black market we should be going round the warehouses, to the importers,» said the official. «We know where these warehouses are in Athens, we have seen foreigners going in and out loaded down with huge bags of goods. The only way to achieve results is to raid the warehouses and check the import documents for the merchandise.»

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.