Ukraine’s cyberpolice on Sept. 6 busted a smuggling ring that imported fake Apple smartphones, headphones, tablets, laptops and chargers from China before selling them as genuine products to unsuspecting Ukrainians.
Authorities arrested and charged three suspects, aged 26-27, with fraud. The trio allegedly used a laser engraver to put the Apple logo on the knock-offs. The fake goods were stored in a Kyiv warehouse, then distributed through a chain of 10 online stores in Ukraine. Nearly 200 Ukrainians became victims of the scheme, police said.
Cops seized a plethora of phony products, including 100 fake iPhones, 2,000 empty mobile phone boxes, 500 headphones and numerous laptops and charging cables, as well as a machine for printing labels with counterfeit serial numbers. They also found $75,000 in cash.
The suspects also imported hair dryers and electronics made by other popular brands, the cyberpolice said without elaborating.
The suspects face up to eight years in prison.
Smuggling branded electronics or knock-offs of such is common in Ukraine, especially with Apple products. Ukrainian smugglers often hide phones in their trousers and laptop computers in portable fridges to get them into the country before illegally selling them at a discount compared to official distributors.
Nearly half of all Apple devices are sold in the country illegally and go untaxed.
In June, Apple opened an office in Ukraine to import and distribute its devices directly to authorized retailers like Citrus, Comfy, Eldorado, Foxtrot, Moyo, Rozetka and others. However, many small retailers still place the company’s logo on forged devices without Apple’s permission or import original Apple products illegally without paying taxes.
During his visit to California on Sept. 2, President Volodymyr Zelensky and the deputy minister of digital transformation Oleksandr Bornyakov met with Apple CEO Tim Cook. They asked the company to consider opening an official Apple Store in Ukraine to sell licensed goods cheaper.
However, Ukrainian experts told the Kyiv Post that Apple is unlikely to enter the unstable Ukrainian market any time soon.
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