At the end of last year officers broke up an operation producing fake Giant brand refrigerant for car air conditioners and confiscated equipment thought to be worth over CNY50m (£5M).
Eighteen people were arrested from four criminal gangs across a number of Chinese provinces. Police uncovered an operation involving five illegal production facilities, 11 storage warehouses and two sales offices. In all, 28,000 aerosol cans of fake Giant brand R134a and other refrigerant brands were confiscated along with thousands of empty counterfeit refrigerant cans, filling machines, fake packaging, packaging machines and other counterfeiting equipment and more than 20 tons of raw materials.
The Giant brand is well-known in China and is legally produced by a subsidiary of Zhejiang Quzhou Juhua Co, itself a producer of the refrigerant blend component HFC125 for Honeywell.
There are hundreds of indigenous R134a refrigerant brands in China of which nearly 80% are thought to be counterfeit. Many of these counterfeits are dangerous and potentially lethal. Some contain hydrocarbons or even liquified petroleum or other flammables which is said to have led to car fires, explosions and injuries. Some contain R134a plus R12 or R415A (a flammable mixture of R22 and R152a) or R406 (a mixture R142b, R22 and isobutane). There have also been well-reported incidents of R40 (methyl chloride) being used – the component which was blamed for explosions and three deaths in the reefer industry in 2011.
Other fakes are just of low quality, impure and moisture-laden which accelerate the wear of automobile compressors or cause components to leak or malfunction.