Italian police seized 320,000 counterfeit handbags from secret cellar

ROME (AFP) - Italian police said on Tuesday they had seized 320,000 counterfeit handbags and accessories with fake labels from Gucci and Prada hidden in a secret cellar and shut down 15 websites selling illegal luxury items.

The two operations are the latest in a crackdown this year that has led to the seizure of 64 million fake goods and 50 arrests of people "affiliated with criminal groups", the police said in a statement.

A police video showed officers from the financial crimes police in Vicenza in northern Italy tearing down a fake partition to reach a room in a sweatshop where some of the counterfeit items were stored.

"The organisation was run by Italians, Romanians, Senegalese and Moroccans and production took place in Campania and Lombardy," the regions around Naples in the south and Milan in the north, the police said.

Counterfeit labels for top fashion brands Prada, Fendi, Armani Jeans, D&G, Louis Vuitton and Roberto Cavalli could be seen in the police video.

Fake goods are widely available in Italy despite repeated crackdowns on the business and are usually sold by unlicensed street vendors in tourist hotspots.

In another operation in Bergamo, the police said they had shut down 15 websites that were selling counterfeit goods online, posing as official retailers for some of the world's top fashion brands.