Ten people, including seven former employees of Hermès, were sentenced this Thursday in Paris to sentences ranging from six months in prison to three years, two of which closed, for having participated in the manufacture or sale of counterfeit Birkin bags.
Considered one of the initiators of this parallel factory, the main defendant was sentenced to the heaviest penalty, as well as a fine of 200,000 euros.
This man, the only one absent from the trial which took place in June, is the subject of an arrest warrant.
Another organizer was sentenced to three years in prison, one of which was firm, to be carried out in house arrest, and to a fine of 100,000 euros.
A woman who had marketed the bags to Asian buyers was sentenced to the same fine, as well as 30 months, 10 of which were firm - to be executed under the same regime.
Suspensions and fines for seven defendants
Against the other seven, the court handed down suspended sentences and fines.
Several defendants were also ordered to pay jointly some 580,000 euros for moral and material damages to the various entities of the Hermès group - which had requested 2 million.
These ten defendants, most of whom had a clean record, were tried for having made at home, in 2013 and 2014, replicas of the Birkin model, the best-selling and most profitable of the luxury brand.
Our series in five episodes on the case of fake Hermès bags
At the helm, they recognized a large part of the facts: some explained that they had agreed to participate because of a then precarious financial situation, others spoke of "the greed", explaining that they wanted to improve their daily life or make their children happy.
At least 20,000 euros per bag
To manufacture these “high quality” counterfeits, in the words of the prosecutor, one of the members of the network was purchasing crocodile skins from an Italian supplier in Lombardy.
Then the various stages, very technical, were carried out by employees or ex-employees of Hermès, at home, the bags being exchanged in car parks or in the street.
These "real fakes" were then sold to Asian tourists in Paris, or Hong Kong, for at least 20,000 euros.
The price of a new bag of this type is around 45,000 euros.
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PODCAST. Fake "Birkin" bags: the incredible company of exes from Hermès
Fake "Birkin" bags: the incredible company of exes from Hermès
"Given the severity of the sentence," the lawyer for the main defendant said he had "no choice but to appeal".
“The fight against counterfeiting”, if it is “legitimate”, “cannot be done to the detriment of fundamental rights”, added Alexandre Lazarègue, considering that the legislation in this matter presents a “risk of arbitrariness”.