Fugitive Chinese social media influencer and husband await trial after returning from South Korea

Shenzhen police say the pair are accused of selling fake sunglasses online

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 8:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 10:51am

A Chinese social media influencer with more than 600,000 followers and her husband have been arrested and are awaiting trial accused of selling fake goods online, Shenzhen police announced on Monday.

The 35-year-old woman, surnamed Yu, and her husband, 37, surnamed Yang, were arrested in July after they returned to China from overseas and turned themselves in, the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau’s Longgang branch said in a statement posted on microblogging site Weibo.

While it is not the first time a social media influencer has been accused of peddling fake goods, Yu is the first to be arrested after fleeing China.

Shenzhen police had been preparing to file an Interpol red notice – a type of international arrest warrant – for Yu and Yang, but they returned to China when the authorities threatened to cancel their passports, Shanghai-based news outlet Thepaper.cn reported on Monday.

The pair are believed to be in custody. A 50-year-old man accused of being their supplier was also arrested in August.

China has been looking to clear its reputation as a major source of knock-off goods. A new e-commerce law will come into force on January 1 that will hold online retail companies and merchants jointly accountable for the sale of fake products online. At present, it is the merchants who are liable when caught.

Yu and Yang are accused of illegally profiting from the sale of 3,000 pairs of fake sunglasses online, with transactions amounting to some 1.94 million yuan (US$280,300), according to the police statement.

According to Thepaper.cn, the pair fled to Japan via South Korea in May. That was after Taobao – the e-commerce site owned by Alibaba, which also owns the South China Morning Post – shut down Yu’s store and reported the case to police when a Weibo user claimed she had been selling counterfeits.

Yu claimed on social media that she was targeted by someone seeking revenge, the report said.

Alibaba has said it has achieved “significant results” in its anti-counterfeiting efforts, and takes down fake goods listings within 24 hours.

Shenzhen police said the Alibaba Platform Governance Department had assisted its investigation.

In June, officers traced Yu’s IP address to her home, where they found a woman who claimed to be her housekeeper burning invoices, Thepaper.cn reported. A manager at the couple’s office also told police Yu had made payments to all their staff on May 30 and told them to take long holidays, the report said.

Police also found 10 destroyed computers at the office and some 50 pairs of sunglasses that had been returned by customers at the couple’s warehouse. Korean brand Gentle Monster worked with the Shenzhen police to confirm the sunglasses were fake versions of its products, according to the report.

A beauty influencer on Weibo with some 620,000 followers, Yu’s handle, which translates as “Cat Lady”, has been scrubbed clean since her arrest.