The "largest ever" European policing operation has led to 20,000 packages of counterfeit goods being seized as police shut a network of illegal shops operating from social media platforms.

Known by the code name Operation Aphrodite, the crackdown involved Europol and the Italian Guardia di Finanza (GdF), alongside authorities from nine EU members states.

The preliminary investigation looked at more than 250 people who were selling counterfeit goods and pirated content, with 100 suspects prosecuted.

The goods being sold included sportswear, medicines, cosmetics, smartphones and designer clothes.

Jewellery, sunglasses, watches and illegal IPTV set-top-boxes were also among the thousands of packages seized.

Image:The transactions are often completed on messaging apps. Pic: Europol/GdF

The illegal shops advertised the knock-off goods in social media posts, although Europol did not say which platforms were being used.

The transactions are not typically completed on the social media platform itself, with the vendors and customers often using messaging apps.

According to Europol, when the transaction has been arranged, couriers deliver the packages and payment is usually made via prepaid cards or Paypal.

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Europol said: "The internet continues to be a major facilitator of intellectual property crime as it utilises new and emerging platforms, such as social media, that have made it easier to post and share offerings for counterfeit goods and pirated content to an expanding audience."

Last July, a Sky News investigation revealed that powerful and addictive prescription drugs were being illegally offered for sale on Facebook.

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