Chinese police seize fake iPhones as trade war with US moves tech theft centre stage

  • Regulators and police act on tip-off that rip-off copies of status symbol phone were being made at flat in hi-tech zone
  • Investigation expands as suspect claims he was small part of bigger network
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2018, 4:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2018, 11:26pm

Police in Shenzhen seized about 500 fake iPhones from a workshop believed to be part of a larger organisation that produced counterfeit Apple products, Chinese state media reported.

Local authorities seized more than 130 fake iPhone 8 Plus models in black and about 370 others in pink, along with manufacturing tools and cellphone parts from the workshop located in a flat in Fenghuang district, a hi-tech industry base, Xinhua said on Tuesday.

Police detained a man who was allegedly in charge of the workshop and who admitted the place was part of a much larger operation, the report said.

Local market regulators received a tip-off in September that someone was making counterfeit goods in a residential area. They joined forces with police to bust the workshop and its operators, the report said, without giving a date of the raid.

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The flat was rented, and the suspect – who was identified by his surname Zhang – said he was only responsible for the operation of the workshop. It was not clear if others worked there.

An investigation into the organisation was continuing, the report said.

China has been under pressure from the US for the alleged theft of American intellectual property, including the counterfeiting of famous brands.

Intellectual property theft was considered to be one reason why US President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on imports from China.

In June, the European Union lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organisation that China unfairly required firms to surrender technology to Chinese companies to do business in China.

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Last month, China announced that the Supreme People’s Court would establish a court from next year to hear appeals in intellectual property cases with a view to removing a source of friction between trading partners.

Regarded as a status symbol, Apple iPhones accounted for more 24 per cent of the smartphone market in China by end of last year.

The making and selling of fake iPhones 8, the cheaper module before the iPhone X, hit the headlines this year.

In Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province, three men were arrested in April for allegedly selling counterfeit iPhone 8s which they bought from Shenzhen, the Gusu Evening News reported.

They managed to sell more than 30 of the devices before they were detained. Among the victims duped by their handiwork was a retailer of smartphones.