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February 11, 2012

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5 held over 8m yuan iPhone 4S truck heist

FIVE suspects accused of swapping a truck full of iPhones bound for the United States market with fakes have been detained, police said yesterday.

The Pudong New Area police claim the suspects spent more than 18 months planning the theft of nearly 1,700 iPhones - the latest iPhone 4S model - worth 8 million yuan (US$1.3 million).

The deception was not discovered until the shipment reached the United States.

One suspect, surnamed Wu, was a truck driver with a logistics company that delivers iPhones from a local factory where they are assembled to a warehouse at Pudong International Airport.

Wu and his accomplices swapped 1,680 iPhones with similarly packaged fakes on the way to the airport, police said.

Only a few stolen iPhones have been recovered and the investigation is ongoing, officers said.

On December 26, four trucks containing iPhones made the journey to the warehouse. The one driven by Wu was about 30 minutes late and Wu claimed he was delayed by a flat tire, said police.

He left Shanghai shortly afterwards and his former employer later discovered that his ID was forged.

Police said Wu met up with the other four suspects near Linbo Road in Pudong where they loaded the iPhones into a van owned by a suspect named Fan.

The stolen cargo was replaced by fake plastic models of the same weight and similar packaging that cost the gang 50,000 yuan, said police.

Two days later, the iPhones were sold to a wholesaler at 1,400 yuan each - less than a third of the market price.

They changed hands six times before reaching customers, police said.

Suspects were held in locations as far apart as Putuo District of Shanghai, eastern Jiangsu Province and in Chongqing Municipality in southwestern China between January 18 and February 2.

The gang had spent 18 months meticulously planning the theft before the iPhone 4S was launched, police said.

It is claimed that Fan and Wu, who had known each other for years and had worked as truck drivers, heard in June 2010 that a Shanghai electronics company had won a contract assembling Apple products.

They then discovered the identity of the transport company that worked for the electronic company and hatched the plot, police claimed.

Wu obtained a job with the company and studied delivery details.

He also opened packages and recorded every Apple product's weight and packaging.

"Wu had a lot of chances but the ring kept waiting for a good time to act," police said in a press release.

Last November, they heard the iPhone 4S was about to launch and decided to put the plan into action, police said.


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