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The Dangerous Game Behind Fake Ball Bearings

  • Bearings-maker SKF steps up the fight against knock-offs
  • Don’t ask "what is being counterfeited, but what isn’t"
A haul of counterfeit SKF AB ball bearings sit inside a Pekari Investments store in Nairobi.

A haul of counterfeit SKF AB ball bearings sit inside a Pekari Investments store in Nairobi.

Source: SKF AB

Nairobi’s Kirinyaga Road is the kind of dusty, run-down thoroughfare that sits on the fringes of most African city centers: Cars and motorbikes weave their way through throngs of shoppers browsing storefronts crammed with cheap electronics, housewares, and clothing.

One Tuesday morning last April, a blonde woman from Sweden stood out from the crowd, leading nine Kenyan officers to a storefront she believed was selling counterfeit goods. But they weren’t after knock-off handbags, watches or sunglasses. The shop specialized in a far less sexy -- and ultimately more dangerous -- fake product: ball bearings.