Da Vinci pleads for a second chance

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 July, 2011, 12:00am


A tearful but unrepentant Doris Phua yesterday begged the mainland media and consumers to give her luxury furniture chain Da Vinci - currently under investigation for allegedly selling fake imported goods - 'another chance to serve', insisting that the company had acted honourably.

Customs investigators demanded the company - with outlets in six mainland cities - show import and export certificates following allegations it passed off furniture made in Guangdong as being 'made in Italy'.

An initial investigation by the Shanghai Entry-Exit Quarantine Inspection Bureau found 11 batches of Chinese-made goods shipped by Da Vinci had been moved into bonded areas of the port then brought back into the country, China Central Television reported last night.

As the goods had gone through export procedures, they had technically been re-imported into China. It was unclear how they had been labelled when sold to consumers.

The investigation was sparked by a CCTV programme, aired on Sunday, that claimed the shop had been shipping counterfeit furniture made by Changfeng Furniture in Dongguan to Italy, then re-importing it to the mainland and stating it had been made overseas.

The scandal provoked a strong reaction from wealthy mainlanders, due to the store's popularity among those keen to flaunt their riches.

The Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau conducted quality tests on products in the company's warehouses, with results due in the next few days.

Da Vinci mainly sells the sort of gaudy, ornate Italian-style furniture favoured by the mainland's nouveaux riche, and at prices only they can afford. Most comes from top Italian brand names - including Versace and Cappelletti - but a South China Morning Post reporter visiting a store yesterday found a number of high-priced items were not clearly labelled and sales staff were often unable or unwilling to provide further details.

In a bizarre, and at times chaotic, press conference - held in Beijing and simultaneously broadcast to conference rooms in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu and Shenzhen - Da Vinci chief executive Phua was backed by 20 representatives of Italian and American brands to reject the CCTV programme's accusations.

The Singaporean businesswoman initially read out a short statement, followed by comments from three of the Italian manufacturers.

However, when an angry customer disrupted the event to voice his frustrations, she launched into an emotional and rambling 35-minute speech, during which she repeatedly broke down in tears.

'I can assure you as Da Vinci CEO, I will address each and every one of this customer's suspicions,' she said, but refused to take questions directly from journalists.

Phua admitted she had been naive in her dealings with Changfeng, who she said had been authorised to produce a second line of European-styled furniture in Shenzhen and Dongguan from around 2002, but insisted they had all been clearly labelled as being made in China.

Before her outburst, her European partners had said they continued to have full faith in the company.

Cappelletti chief Tino Cappelletti said his company had never used components from outside Italy. 'I have been to China several times and I have only ever seen my own furniture in their showrooms,' he said.