London, Nov 3 : The biggest challenge for David Beckham when he lands up in Italy for his loan period with AC Milan will be fighting merchandise piracy by the Italian Mafia.
Police have warned that the feared 'Ndragheta' crime clan is all set to cash in on the England star's popularity by manufacturing a large number of fake Beckham shirts and souvenirs.
According to FBI agents in America, counterfeiters working for the Mafia may soon be churning out fake merchandise to cash in on the Beckham fever.
The source of their information, suspected international drug trafficker Giuseppe Collucio, is said to be a senior underboss of the 'Ndragheta, which operates in the Calabria region of Italy.
After getting arrested in Canada earlier this year, Collucio revealed that the Italian government's war on the mob is the reason why the racketeers have resorted to less violent but hugely lucrative ventures, including merchandise piracy.
"In Italy, Beckham and his business team are going to find the operation there isn't run by small-time crooks," the Daily star quoted a senior FBI agent in Los Angeles as saying.
The official added: "The Mafia has the means and the money to set up elaborate counterfeit rings. And their street sellers had better not sell anything else, including genuine articles, or they will face very swift retribution."
It is speculated that Italy will see an economical boost by Beckham's arrival, but the large-scale piracy operation via the infamous 'Ndragheta family, might just cost the Goldenballs a fortune.
Piracy might not even spare Posh's latest fashion lines, for one might jut see her trendy jeans being sold off in Milan in mob-run sweatshops.
"David's already a little jittery about personal security over there," said a source at the LA Galaxy club.
The source added: "But he's going to be pissed at the thought of racketeers cashing in on his name. Fan fever follows David wherever he goes and I know for a fact that his business team has made big efforts to stamp out piracy here.
"That might not be quite so easy - or safe - if the pirates in Italy are working for the Mafia."
Story first published: Monday, November 3, 2008, 15:23 [IST]
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