Firm in 'imported' furniture scam

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 July, 2011, 12:00am


Prominent mainland furniture retailer Da Vinci has been selling luxury items at high prices as 'imported from Italy' when in fact they had been made locally, according to a China Central Television report.

CCTV reported yesterday that a Beijing customer complained about six months ago that she bought about 40 pieces of furniture from Da Vinci Home Collection's Beijing branch at a cost of more than 2.8 million yuan (HK$ 3.37 million). However, the furniture smelled terrible and some items were the wrong size.

She said sales staff at the firm insisted the items of furniture were 'international super brands' imported from Italy and made with 'natural, high-quality raw materials' that were environmentally friendly.

But an investigation by CCTV found that the assurances by the Shanghai-based Da Vinci, which has become a favourite furniture brand among the mainland's rich and powerful in recent years, did not hold up.

It said that a sofa, supposedly an Italian brand called 'Cappeletti', which cost the Beijing customer about 300,000 yuan, had been made by Changfeng Furniture Company in Dongguan, Guangdong. In addition, it had been made out of density boards, not wood.

Peng Jie, general manager of Changfeng, said the price of the sofa in Dongguan was 30,000 yuan. Peng showed CCTV electronic payment receipts and working e-mails between the company and Da Vinci, which had asked it to 'try not to use wood whenever it is possible'.

Peng also revealed that Da Vinci had exported the furniture from Shenzhen to Italy and re-imported it to Shanghai, thus allowing it to tell customers that it was 'imported'.

According to the company's website, Da Vinci was founded by Tony Phua and his wife Doris Phua in 2000. The couple, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, also established Singapore furniture manufacturer and retailer Da Vinci Group Holdings in 1994. A staff member at Da Vinci's Shanghai headquarters declined to comment on the CCTV report but said it would soon hold a press conference.

Online commentators said the scandal would probably hit Da Vinci's plan to list on the mainland stock market, while some others chuckled about the craving of some customers for anything tagged foreign-made.'It's no surprise to see some people have been cheated,' Mei Xinyu, associated researcher at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, posted on his website yesterday. 'That's only because some customers are crazy about foreign things.'