Counterfeit refrigerants are slowly becoming a widespread problem throughout the world. Just recently there were twenty tons of R-22 refrigerant disguised as R-134a being brought into Russia. Russian custom officials caught and confiscated the fake shipment. (Story can be found here.)
On top of the Russian import there was another instance in India where a refrigeration company was importing R-22 disguised as R-134a. This operation was going on for quite a while until the Indian government caught wind of it. Their government waited patiently for the next shipment, pounced, and arrested the responsible parties. These guys got caught and are now awaiting trial in India. (Story can be found here.)
Now I can understand the appeal of importing cheap Chinese R-22 and flipping it for a huge profit. In some instances the smugglers stand to make $250,000 or more in profit. In most cases you can purchase R-22 in China at under $100 a cylinder and illegally sell it in a different country for $290-$300 a cylinder. This most recent case is a new one, to say the least.
I came across an article today that details how 13,000 fraudulent refrigerant cylinders were seized by the United Arab Emirates custom officials at one of their ports. The estimated value was around $270,000 dollars. The shipment was supposed to go to a refrigeration company owned by Asian immigrants in the United Arab Emirates. Obviously the Asian immigrants used their connections in China and got these fraudulent cylinders for dirt cheap.
The cylinders that were brought in did not meet regulation standard and if used could rupture causing damage to machines, buildings, and even personnel. Come to find out there is also a shortage of cylinders in the UAE. I’m beginning to see a strategy here. They were going to sell these sub-par cylinders at full market value when there is a market shortage throughout the country. Huge profit potential. In this case their risk was not worth the reward. The responsible part has now been arrested.
The United States seems to be avoiding a lot of these smugglers, but after seeing these numerous articles about companies being caught smuggling illegal or disguised product into Russia, India, and now the UAE it makes me wonder… how much illegal product is being brought into the United States without our knowledge? In some instances this counterfeit product is being labeled as DuPont or HoneyWell product. So, not only is it illegal but it is also being disguised into looking like legitimate American made product.
Hopefully it is not a problem here in the states, but it always pays to be vigilant.