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Court told singer didn't buy fakes

A TAIWANESE man, who was sued by the luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton Malletier for selling counterfeit goods to people, including Canadian singer Celine Dion, claimed that Dion had visited him to have her fortune told, rather than to buy fake goods.

The claim was made on his behalf by a lawyer in court on Thursday.

The man, surnamed Lin, opened a store registered as Shanghai Zhongwen Trade Co Ltd, in a small lane on Shaanxi Road S. in 2002 with his wife, Wu Beiwen.

The store caught Louis Vuitton's eye when Dion was photographed shopping there on April 10 last year, allegedly picking up about 50 counterfeit products, including bogus LV goods, before her concert in the city.

Lin said he had been studying fortune telling for nearly 30 years and had a good reputation in the circle, according to yesterday's Shanghai Morning Post.

He told the newspaper Dion came with her mother to his shop to have her fortune told, not to buy anything. She gave Lin five tickets to her Shanghai concert to show her gratitude after her fortune was read, Lin said.

On August 2, 2008, the police seized a number of counterfeit goods from hidden cabinets in the store. Records from the local market watchdog show the store was fined in December 2002 and in June 2004 for selling counterfeit goods. Fake LV goods were included in the seized counterfeits.

Louis Vuitton is suing Lin and his wife for 1 million yuan (US$146,321).

The Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court heard the lawsuit on Thursday without announcing its verdict. It postponed the hearing on March 5 because the lawyer for the defendants didn't appear.

The defendants admitted selling counterfeit merchandise but argued the compensation was too high.

Louis Vuitton said the sale of counterfeit goods by the defendants had seriously damaged its business. It argued that the prices charged by the store must be high because celebrities shopped there, and so the defendants should pay high compensation.

The plaintiff added that the couple had bought at least four properties in downtown Jing'an District valued at more than 20 million yuan. Since they didn't have other income except selling counterfeit goods, Louis Vuitton concluded the properties all came from illegal income of selling counterfeits. The defendants denied the properties were bought with income from selling counterfeit goods.

The lawyer of the defendants said Dion went to the store on April 10, 2008 because she knew Lin was a fortune teller. At the time, the media reported the store sent nine bags of merchandise to the hotel where Dion was staying.

Reporters saw Dion visit the store but none saw whether she bought anything.


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