French police have arrested 12 people in a bust of a criminal ring that manufactured and distributed fake Hermes handbags worth an estimated 18 million euros ($23 million), prosecutors said Friday.
Among those arrested in Paris and Lyon were employees at Hermes, a leading French luxury goods maker, the Paris prosecutors' office said in a statement.
It said police had uncovered clandestine workshops where the products were being manufactured and seized 20 cubic metres (700 cubic feet) worth of counterfeit bags and raw materials.
Police also seized tens of thousands of euros in cash in the operation and bank accounts, including 22 in Hong Kong and three in Cyprus, "credited with several hundreds of thousands of euros," prosecutors said.
The investigation "exposed a very well-structured international criminal organisation... that reveals the attractiveness of organised criminal counterfeiting," the statement said.
It said police had opened the investigation following a complaint by Hermes last September.
French industry groups say the counterfeit luxury goods market is booming and cost the country's economy 30,000 jobs and six billion euros in lost revenues every year.