Italian police seize pope John Paul II knock-offs

Police in Rome seized thousands of pope John Paul II knock-off watches and novelty devices on Wednesday in a crackdown on false merchandising ahead of the late pontiff's beatification on May 1.

The counterfeit papal souvenirs were found stashed in several warehouses on the outskirts of Rome and were destined to hit market stalls around the Vatican as the celebrations kicked off, Italy's financial police said in a statement.

The 5.5 million items seized which included fake Rolex, Omega and Cartier watches as well as pirate Mont Blanc pens had a market value of around 15 million euros ($22 million), it said.

Three Chinese nationals were questioned as part of the squeeze on forgers hoping to take advantage of the 300,000 pilgrims expected for John Paul II's beatification at the Vatican.

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