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Dangerous fake motor racing harnesses uncovered

Carmarthenshire County Council Lead Trading Standards Officer Aled Thomas and Executive Board Member for Public Protection Cllr Jim Jones, pictured with one of the counterfeit Sparco harnesses that have failed controlled safety tests (pic Jeff Connell)

A PEMBREY man admitted selling fake harnesses to amateur and semi-professional racing car drivers at Swansea Crown Court this week.

Finbar Hannaford, aged 22, sold more than 300 of the enhanced seatbelt systems before Carmarthenshire County Council’s trading standards officers stepped in.

The counterfeit harnesses bearing the Sabelt, Sparco and Takata brand names, were sold on eBay and Facebook, amongst a range of counterfeit car accessories and clothing.

A similar counterfeit harness failed in controlled safety test conditions at a speed of just 50mph.

The harness failed on several points, indicating that in a real life situation – and under normal use – it could cause death or serious injury.

The counterfeit harness under test was branded as Sparco, and at the time, trading standards officers warned that there was a ‘real risk’ that the counterfeit Sabelt and Takata harnesses could also similarly fail.

At least one is thought to have snapped.

Hannaford, of Maes yr Awel, appeared before Judge Keith Thomas at Swansea crown court on Monday (Feb 6) for a plea and trial preparation hearing.

He admitted participating in a fraudulent business between Aug 1, 2014 and July 18, 2015 by selling racing harnesses which were either counterfeit or dangerous.

Lee Reynolds, prosecuting, said the products gave the impression of being Italian made but had in fact been imported directly from China.

Robin Rouch, the barrister representing Hannaford, said he accepted that the harnesses had not been genuine but he had believed them to be of good quality.

The harnesses are fitted to cars used for both rallying and circuit racing.

Judge Thomas said he would sentence Hannaford on March 31 after a hearing to determine the extent of his involvement in the fraud.

Hannaford was granted bail meanwhile but warned by Judge Thomas that a prison sentence could be the eventual outcome.