A high-profile crackdown on criminals who produce and sell counterfeit goods such as fake clothing and footwear has been announced by Ireland#;s Anti-Counterfeiting Group and law enforcement agencies.

The clampdown on counterfeiters, who are believed to cost legitimate businesses more than 750 million euros a year, will highlight the economic, social and criminal impact of counterfeiting in Ireland.

The operation has been organised by the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, along with the Department of Enterprise and Employment, An Garda Siochana and The Revenue Commissioners.

It was launched at a press conference today after which will around 50 Garda and Revenue Commissioner officials from across Ireland, as well as police from Northern Ireland, attended an enforcement roadshow to hear how to combat the crime.

John Anderson, executive secretary of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, called on the public to help them catch the counterfeiters. "Product counterfeiting hits everyone in the pocket," he said.

"Legitimate businesses lose sales, which means less jobs; the treasury loses revenue which means less funds for schools, hospitals etc; the consumer pays over the odds for poor quality rip-offs with no recourse when the goods fall apart. Counterfeiting is not a trivial or victimless crime."

He continued: "There is well-documented evidence that organised crime and terrorist organisations have moved into counterfeiting in a big way. Just north of the border, the PSNI is fighting an ongoing battle against racketeers and paramilitary organisations that are flooding markets with counterfeit goods. And it is now known that the al-Qa'eda groups responsible for the September 11th atrocity in New York use counterfeiting to raise funds and launder cash."