Japanese police puncture fake airbag network

Police in the Japanese capital Tokyo have broken up a criminal network that they suspect of sending thousands of counterfeit airbags and other automotive components into international markets over several years.

Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department has it has arrested four people in connection with the activity, who are accused of attempting to export 12 counterfeit airbags to the US from Narita International Airport last year, according to a report published by The Asahi Shimbun.

More airbags – which were carrying brands of major original equipment manufacturer (OEM) brands including Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Suzuki, Mitsubishi and Lexus – were confiscated from a warehouse in Midori, Gunma Prefecture, last month, according to local media reports.

The alleged counterfeit shipments to around 40 countries worldwide took place between June 2022 and November 2022 and are estimated to have brought in around 280m yen ($2.1m) for the gang. One of the suspects that has been named in the media is Israr Mian Ali (36), a Pakistan national who runs a used car business in Japan.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation – which represents international motor vehicle manufacturers spanning 99 per cent of all car and light truck sales worldwide – has said counterfeit parts give rise to serious public safety concerns with potentially fatal consequences.

Airbag covers made by unauthorised manufacturers can malfunction causing serious injury or death, placing people who have them installed at risk. Upon deployment of an airbag in a crash, counterfeit airbag covers can shatter, sending shrapnel into a vehicle’s passenger compartment.

Procurement platforms used by collision repair shops and insurance companies for sourcing replacement parts are one emerging cause of concern, as they often use nebulous terms like “OE Surplus”, Optional OEM” and “OE Discount” as terms for OEM-branded parts that are sourced from diverse sources, and may include counterfeits.

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