Fake Hermès crime ring broken up after raking in €4m from counterfeit bags

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Former Hermès artisans copied the famed Birkin bag, pride of the luxury fashion house, which sells for at least Dh33,000

Hermes Birkin bags are seen at the Maroquinerie de la Tardoire, a Hermes workshop specialized in products made with calfskin, in Montbron, southwestern France. AFP

A craftsman stitches a piece of leather on a saddle at the French luxury brand Hermes' saddlery in Paris on March 11, 2019. - Since 1880, Hermes has been making sports and leisure saddles in its original workshops on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore in central Paris. Today 23 artisans make around 400 saddles each year. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

Hermes is one of the luxury brands getting things right in China. Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

A model wears a Hermes double-sided scarf in Paris on December 4, 2019. - Hermes will unveil next week a "double-sided" silk scarf, which is different on the front from the back. It is a small revolution for the luxury manufacturer and a technical innovation, which is still little mastered in the world of silk printing. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION

A craftsperson on a training course works on a purse in the new leather goods workshop of French high fashion luxury goods manufacturer Hermes (La Manufacture de l'Allan Hermès), on the eve of its inauguration day, on April 5, 2018 in Allenjoie, northeastern France. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

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Simon Rushton

June 24, 2020

June 24, 2020

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Counterfeiters created a multimillion-euro line in fake Hermès bags and luxury fashion accessories that, much like the real thing, were made in France and sold around the world.

An investigation found former craftsmen at the luxury brand had moved into the black market after they stopped working at the French fashion house, and counterfeited products including the Birkin bag, the pride of the Hermès stable.

Hermès has confirmed the international crime ring, in which products were made in France and shipped across Europe, the United States and Asia, had been broken up by police.

Hermès products are the pinnacle of the luxury market with items such as the Birkin bag selling for at least €8,000 (Dh33,000) and appreciating in value. The most expensive bag in the world is a Hermès Himalaya Birkin, which cost €440,000, or about $500,000.

The brand uses only the highest-quality leather and makes only 8,000 Birkins each year, keeping demand high but also making them an ideal target for fakers.

Some of the arrested group are expected to appear in a French court on Wednesday.

Many of accused were former leatherworkers, artisan cutters or assemblers at Hermès. French investigators found "a structured network" that sold about 150 bags for a turnover of more than €4 million from 2011 to 2014. Each fake bag was sold for €23,000 to €32,000.

"This operation concludes a one-year investigation following an Hermès complaint based on clues and abnormal behaviour identified through the house's internal monitoring systems," the company told Women’s Wear Daily, the prestigious fashion journal known as WWD.

"Hermès is very satisfied with the efficient and diligent collaboration established with the national gendarmerie in this case and reiterates its relentless commitment to fighting counterfeiting. This action puts an end to the fraudulent project in progress."

Updated: June 24, 2020 08:26 PM

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