Two-thirds of counterfeit goods detected globally in recent years, which includes apparel, were shipped from China, a United Nations (UN) report says.

"This production is typically centralised. A large number of firms can produce virtually any product desired, and since many products are not branded until they are closer to their destination markets, the lines between licit and illicit production can become blurred," it notes.

In Europe, the goods are distributed through various channels, including via lawful discount retailers, but the bulk appears to be through informal networks and also flea markets.

The study by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime, entitled 'The Globalization of Crime,' highlights that the number of counterfeit products detected at European Union borders alone has gone up by a factor of ten over the past decade "for a yearly value of more than $10bn."

Attempts to import counterfeit goods detected at EU customs border posts between 1999 and 2008 increased from 4,694 in 1999 to 49,381 incidents in 2008.

Most of the counterfeit goods intercepted by EU customs, it says, originated in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

The expert report points out that most products are shipped out by the same means as other manufactured goods, "although they may be falsely declared to avoid inspections and evade taxes."

The bulk of counterfeit goods are hauled by sea and some are further processed "including mislabelling, in free trade zones in transit or once in Europe."