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Counterfeiting case at Hermès: what really happened ?

Counterfeiting case at Hermès: what really happened ?

Sued for breach of trust, 7 former Hermès employees are risking up to seven years in prison and a fine of 750,000 euros for having clandestinely manufactured and then sold dozens of counterfeit bags from the French luxury giant, including the famous Birkin model. Put on trial in Paris on June 24, they said they regretted having “betrayed” the company in which they had worked for many years. Here is the story of a trial full of twists and turns that will end today.

 

A counterfeiting case dating back to 2013

 

A total of ten individuals, including seven former employees of the French luxury house, have been appearing since Wednesday, suspected of having made and sold replicas of the emblematic “Birkin” model, the brand’s best-selling and most profitable object, named after the Franco-British actress Jane Birkin.

 

Between 2013 and 2014, at least ten series of 8 to 10 Birkin bags will have been produced and several copies sold. For Hermès, the loss amounts to €1.3 million.

 

The case started coincidentally, after a wiretap of a man’s apartment, then suspected of selling bags stolen from trucks in France to Asia, the president of the 11th criminal court reported on Wednesday June 24, on the first day of the trial.

 

The investigation then revealed the existence of a “clandestine garment factory” and a particularly well-organised “network”, with roles assigned to each one: some shared the know-how they had acquired while working for Hermès, others were responsible for supplying crocodile skins from an Italian supplier, while others were responsible for selling these “real fake” bags to Asian tourists at exorbitant prices.

 

Five other persons, then employees of Hermès, were involved: a goldsmith, for supplying the jewellery adorning the bags, and four leatherworkers, two women and two men, for carrying out the very meticulous operations of assembling, “turning” and finishing the bags.

 

Some of them are even accused of having stolen from their workplace scraps of leather, tools, metal parts, zippers or models that were meant to be destroyed, in order to perfect the similarity.

 

Yes, I betrayed Hermes…

 

So, ten people have been appearing since Wednesday and until this evening at the Paris Criminal Court for this parallel manufacture.

 

A three-day trial full of twists and turns, during which the accused have notably expressed their regrets.

 

In particular, one of the presumed organizers of the network, accused of having withdrawn about 44,000 euros from this illegal factory by putting pieces of leather and parts of Hermès bags in his motorcycle jacket.

 

Everything I had, I put it in a safe. […] At the time, I don’t think I realized how serious it was. I wanted to make my children happy, not in the day-to-day life, but for the future. […] I regret it above all, towards the court and society especially. Hermès is a big family and I betrayed it, I betrayed it” said the man, now 45 years old.

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It’s the lure of profit, easy money“: in the witness box, another employee who worked at Hermès for 19 years admitted that he assembled the parts and sewed “a good dozen bags” between 2013 and 2014, outside the workshop where he worked, also for financial reasons.

 

In addition to being employees of the famous company, what they have in common is their greedy interest in an illegal but very lucrative industry.

 

Almost all of the defendants have no criminal record. They had “stable situations“, were “passionate” about their profession and yet, “they crossed the Rubicon. It’s astonishing.” said the president of the court, Benjamin Blanchet.

 

The verdict in the trial of these bag forgers is expected to be announced this Friday evening.

 

Read also > LVMH announces “historic” seizure of more than 1 million counterfeit perfume bottles in Greece, according to AFP

 

Featured photo : © Nicolas Roger

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