COUNTERFEIT goods have become the scourge of businesses and law enforcement and now Royal Mail and the Vue Cinema Group have become the first businesses to be recognised for their efforts in tackling trade in them.

Both received awards at a ceremony in Edinburgh yesterday from the Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group (SAITG) for what were described as their “outstanding efforts” in the battle against fakes.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf presented them with their awards at Fountain Park Cineworld in Edinburgh, alongside other members of SAITG, Police Scotland and HMRC.

Royal Mail has played a vital role in helping identify the trade in millions of illicit cigarettes in Scotland, which has allowed effective intervention by HMRC.

For its part, Vue Cinema trained its staff in identifying suspicious circumstances and customers, and assisted with the high-profile conviction of a man caught filming T2 Trainspotting at Glasgow Fort Vue Cinema earlier this year.

Yousaf said the trade in counterfeit goods was not a victimless crime.

“It has a detrimental impact on legitimate businesses and can pose a serious risk to the health and safety of everyone who thinks they are getting a bargain,” he said.

“I very much welcome the contribution that the Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group makes to the implementation of Scotland’s serious organised crime strategy and congratulate both recipients on today’s awards.

“Working collaboratively with partner agencies, the private sector and with the public assisting, the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce is determined to disrupt this illegal trade and reduce the harm it causes.”

SAITG is chaired by former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill and brings together experts from across the public and private sectors with the aim of reducing the scale, impact and cost of illegal trade across Scotland.

MacAskill said he believed that for authorities to succeed in reducing the harmful counterfeit trade, there must be even greater cooperation with businesses and the general public.

He said: “Those being rightly praised for outstanding work today have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Their actions were innovative and resourceful and are understandably commended for that.

“They’ve protected valuable jobs and businesses that pay their taxes and insurance.”

Most counterfeit goods – especially electrical equipment, toys, cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol products – tend to be substandard and can pose health risks to buyers.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) working with Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that up to 4% of UK imports in 2013 were counterfeit, which implies up to £500 million worth of fakes were imported into the Scottish economy that year.

Operation Salang was a multi-agency operation coordinated by Police Scotland and saw more than £31m in counterfeit products seized in Scotland between 2013 and 2016.

Roddy Fullarton, Royal Mail investigation manager, said: “We are delighted to be receiving this award along with our partners, who we work closely with.

“Royal Mail takes the security of the mail and the postal service very seriously indeed and we will do everything in our power to protect it,” he added.