Multiple jail sentences handed down to fake Hermès network

A Paris court has handed down prison sentences to 23 people convicted of counterfeiting Hermès bags, including nine former company employees.

The toughest sentence – six years in prison plus a €1.5m fine – was levied against a 41-yer-old man thought to be the ringleader of the network who remains at large with a warrant for his arrest. He was named only as Romain C.

Another 66-year-old individual, who is suspected of being the main supplier of the counterfeit bags, received a four-year sentence and a €400,000 fine. All told, damages worth €10.4m have been awarded to the French designer brand, according to an Agence France Presse report.

The gang were accused of making counterfeit copies of the company’s iconic Birkin bag – named after Anglo-French actress Jane Birkin – in workshops ion France and Hong Kong, and selling them for €23,500 to €32,000 apiece to unsuspecting customers between 2011 and 2014.

There are plenty of low-quality knock-offs of Hermès best-selling product sold worldwide, but these are generally low-quality, easy to spot and sell at a price that leaves little doubt they are fake. Hermès only makes around 8,500 of the genuine handbags a year.

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Those on trial in Paris were able to make close copies that commanded premium pricing – albeit at a sizeable discount to genuine Birkin bags – because their number included former Hermès workers with production expertise as well as access to genuine parts, off-cuts and tools used in their construction.

The gang reportedly operated a showroom on Paris' Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré that patrons thought was an official branch run by Hermes, but was used to sell the fakes, sometimes at above-market prices to people wanting to sidestep waiting lists for the genuine product.

They are estimated to have made several tens of millions of euros over the course of the scam.

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