Wednesday, 10 May 2023, 13:33
National Police have arrested 47 people and seized more than 14,000 allegedly fake phone parts of major brands in a huge operation against counterfeit mobile phone repairs in Malaga.
Most of the detainees were picked up in the province for allegedly using fake copies of spare parts for the original brands such as Apple, Samsung and Huawei to fix mobile phones.
The police investigation started on 16 January 2020 when officers became aware that the alleged fake mobile phone parts were being purchased on the black market and then sold to be used for repairs in specialised shops.
Operation Rotten, a clear reference to the Apple brand, involved officers from National Police’s economic crime unit. The investigators focused on Malaga-based company Klicfone, which was allegedly importing parts from the Asian market and then selling them to a leading mobile phone repair company - Manzana Rota - with franchises in different areas of the country.
The spare parts, mainly screens, casings, batteries and cameras, were considered copies of the originals upon inspections in a number of the franchise’s shops throughout Spain. According to sources, they have shops and franchises in all eight provinces of Andalucía, as well as Murcia, the Basque Country, Castile and Leon, Aragon and the Asturias. In total, 35 premises were inspected, of which 15 were in Malaga.
Investigators seized more than 14,000 counterfeit items. A total of 47 people were arrested, including the main heads of both companies and their employees for their alleged involvement in crimes against industrial property. They were all released once interviewed at police stations.
Officers also seized 17,000 euros in cash, two properties and a vehicle, as well as blocking 150,000 euros in bank accounts.
Lawyers Raquel Rodríguez and Álvaro Morales, who represent the main heads of the companies under investigation and most of the franchisees, argued that the spare parts are not fake and that they provided invoices that proved they were not copies during investigations.
The spare parts are "reconditioned and remanufactured" items they claimed, that is, that they came from originals that had already been on the market, they added.
Rodríguez said an expert opinion will be sought to dispute the police reports. "There is no wrongdoing because we are dealing with a case of exhaustion of the brand (an already used product that has been reconditioned)," Rodríguez said.
She also said the number of arrests is "disproportionate", including "shop assistants and repairers who have no involvement in the purchase of the products".
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