A massive police operation saw 140 officers swoop on Whitechapel Market targeting illegal immigrants and traders selling counterfeit goods.
The huge raids, coordinated by the Metropolitan Police and the UK Border Agency (UKBA), led to 38 people being arrested or detained.
Police also seized more than 500 mobile phones as they rifled through goods at 10 shops and stalls for which search warrants were issued.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “Officers were working in Whitechapel Market as part of a pre-planned operation to search for stolen goods and arrest anyone handling stolen goods.
“As a result of the operation, 38 arrests were made and 500 mobile phones were seized.”
Eyewitnesses said as many as 30 police and UKBA* vans were involved in the swoop on Thursday afternoon.
Scotland Yard confirmed the operation was carried out in conjunction with the UKBA, which arrested 10 suspected illegal immigrants.
Seven of those arrests were of Bangladeshis, with one Pakistani, one Indian and one Burmese person also detained.
All other arrests were for handling stolen goods or other theft-related offences.
Tower Hamlets council said 10 of the borough’s street markets have signed up to a charter under which officials and traders “self police” stalls and report suspicious activity.
“We are committed to combating the sale of counterfeit goods and our trading standards team advise on and enforce a range of laws to protect consumers in the borough, on issues including packaging, product safety and weights and measures,” a spokesman added.
Police and UKBA officials were unable to confirm how many suspects had been charged.
UKBA stands for United Kingdom Border Agency