Couple admits selling fake branded goods from China, dumped them down chute when police knocked
SINGAPORE: A couple who set up a business selling goods on online marketplace Qoo10 later turned to plying fake branded bags from China for the profits.
When the police received wind of the illegal operation and went knocking on the couple's door, the pair dumped 20 branded bags down the rubbish chute along with counterfeit skincare products.
Li Shun, a 29-year-old China national and Singapore permanent resident, and his wife Lim Seow Seow, 35, pleaded guilty on Thursday (Nov 26) to various charges.
Lim admitted to three charges of obstructing the course of justice by disposing the evidence, importing fake branded goods for trade and possessing such goods for trade.
Her husband similarly pleaded guilty to a charge of abetting his wife's obstruction of justice by asking her to dump the goods, as well as importation and possession of fake branded goods for sale under the Trade Marks Act. Another six charges for each of them will be taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard that Li wanted to set up an online business in Singapore to supplement his family income in 2013, but could not do so as he was only a work permit holder.
His wife later obtained Singapore permanent residency, and he used her details to set up a business. At first, they ran a legitimate online business selling unbranded goods, but business was slow.
BUSINESS PICKED UP WITH FAKE BRANDED GOODS
From 2015, Li sourced out counterfeit branded goods from suppliers in Guangzhou, China, and found boutique quality Longchamp and Kipling bags priced slightly cheaper than the originals.
They began selling these and the business began flourishing, leading Li to order and sell other types of fake branded bags. He diversified the business in June 2019 and began selling counterfeit skincare products.
His wife helped Li to run the business by ordering products and tracking their shipments, and using her bank account for payment purposes.
At first, they ordered products from suppliers twice a week and had them delivered to their home, but Singapore Customs informed Li on Oct 1, 2019, that a shipment was being withheld.
After this, Li rented storage space to house some counterfeit goods in order to evade detection. Between 2015 and October 2019, when they were caught, the couple made a total profit of about S$60,000 to S$70,000 selling counterfeit goods.
In mid-October last year, the police received intelligence from the Singapore Customs about suspected counterfeit goods in China, imported by a person who listed the couple's address.
POLICE COME KNOCKING
At about 11.30am on Oct 16, 2019, the police knocked on the door of the couple's home, and Lim called her husband to tell him that she did not recognise who was at the door.
Li suspected that Singapore Customs officers had arrived to raid their home, so he told his wife not to open the door and instead to dispose the goods into the rubbish chute in their home.
Lim carried out her husband's instructions, and opened the door to police only when Li returned home. Both of them later admitted to the police that they had thrown away the goods into the rubbish chute.
The police raided the couple's home, as well as other locations they used to keep the counterfeit goods in, before arresting the pair.
In total, they found 20 counterfeit Longchamp, Adidas or Fila bags in their rubbish chute, as well as four bottles of counterfeit Lancome and Estee Lauder skincare products. They were sealed in mailbags with buyers' addresses indicated on them.
They found another 42 bags imitating brands like Marc Jacobs and Longchamp in a warehouse at the airport, more than 50 bags in their car, and almost 30 bags in a storage facility.
In total across all the charges, the police found 128 items with fake brands that the couple intended to sell.
The prosecutor asked for six months and a week's jail for Li, and nine weeks' jail for his wife.
The judge adjourned sentencing to Dec 30 for the accused to make restitution.
The penalty for obstructing the course of justice is a maximum jail term of seven years, a fine, or both. It is the same for someone who abets such an offence.
For possessing or importing counterfeit goods for sale, they could be jailed for up to five years, fined up to S$100,000, or both.