(ABC NEWS) -- A ring of underground workshops producing millions of counterfeit brand-name condoms -- including Durex, Contex and Jissbon -- was busted by police in central and east China.
Cops confiscated 4.65 million already packaged prophylactics and another 1,100 pounds of unpackaged condoms were found at the scene.
In a dimly lit room in the countryside of southeast China's Fujian province, dozens of workers were busy on a production line, lubricating the condoms when cops raided. The floor was piled high with the contraceptives, and according to police, the stench of the cheap oil lubricants was nauseating.
The racket was exposed in February when a policeman in Fujian province noticed that a store on Taobao.com, China's most popular online shopping site, was selling ridiculously low-priced condoms. He bought a few to test, and they proved to be fakes. The police then traced the fake products from the online store to a network of underground workshops.
A total of 37 suspects from Fujian, Zhejiang and Henan provinces were arrested during the police raid on the workshops on March 29. The details were announced by the police on Tuesday.
The official People's Daily newspaper reported that one of the ring's two bosses was surnamed Liu. He reportedly started his business last December. First, he allegedly bought the raw latex from a factory in Hebei, the province that surrounds the capital, Beijing. Then he applied cheap lubricants and packaged them in bags and boxes bearing well-known brand names, police told the newspaper. Liu's factory could crank out 20,000 counterfeit condoms a day. Each one cost 0.17 yuan to produce, and was sold for 1 Yuan, or about 16 cents.
Liu reportedly told the police that the condoms produced in his workshops were mostly sold on the internet, and through small vendors, supermarkets, pharmacies and rural sex toy stores.
About a month ago, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that Ghana was facing a "major public health issue" after condoms supplied to the country's health service were found to contain holes and burst easily. The one million condoms, carrying the brand name "Be Safe" were all imported from China.
"When we tested those condoms, we found that they are poor quality, can burst in the course of sexual activity, and have holes which expose the users to unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease," Thomas Amedzra, head of drug enforcement at the Ghanaian Food and Drug Authority (FDA) told the Guardian.
The FDA traced the condoms back to the original manufacturer, which was in Henan province in central China.
China has a long history of producing counterfeit products, from fake iPhones to mislabeled meat. Some are exceedingly hard to detect. Auction houses have found some pricey antique vases that were so convincing that experts were not able to authenticate the vases without breaking them. As one Internet user who goes by the handle Myluoluo wrote on China's most popular microblog site Weibo: "fake mutton, fake meat? OK, fine. But fake condoms?if they're fine with us, would that be fine with the Family Planning Commission?"