Monday, August 3, 2009

Taiwan culture: Smuggling into Taiwan I

The stereotype of Taiwan is knock offs being smuggled into the west, but little known there is also a huge trade in luxury goods being smuggled the other way.

I found out when Pierre arrived back in Taipei - two weeks previously he had headed back to France bragging of yet another deal, this time a big import/export deal. It was so big apparently he had invested all his money and it necessitated the need to stay on my couch...again…Well, that is what Pierre said, and I didn’t listen anymore...

Now, he was back and, besides the two suitcases, he had three huge sport’s bags.

I helped him lug the bags up the four floors to my apartment, got a blast of aircon, and started to think about what was wrong.

“Must have paid a fortune in excess for all this shit?”I said then thought about it, and knew instinctively that he didn’t pay an extra cent. He had found a young Taiwanese girl in Charles de Gaulle and persuaded her to say his carry-on luggage was hers. When the air stewardess tried to stop him carrying so many bags onto the plane, he winked and said “I am bringing it for the lady. We French are gentlemen.”

Pierre opened the suitcases: “Shoes, blouses, skirts, and t-shirts. Never been shopping for women before. Now I am an expert. I cleaned out every small size in Paris.”

“This is your fuckin’ business. What happened to a container ship and customs?” We had thought that he was going to negotiate with wholesalers, and arrange shipment for his friend’s shop, not bring the stuff himself.

“This way works out cheaper. Don’t worry, everybody does it,” he replied. The cost of clothing from European brands was a minimum of twenty percent higher in Taiwan, and could be anything up to hundred percent, meaning things could be bought retail in France, and still sold at a healthy profit back here undercutting the official store who paid for the license. His friend, like many others, had a small boutique shop and made a good living based on getting on a plane to Europe 3 or 4 times a year.

There was one more suitcase on the floor. “You still got the bloody cover on this suitcase,” I said before starting to rip it off. As i did Pierre erupted in panic, diving across the suitcase to protect it like it was his own child getting beaten. “That is not mine. It costs two thousand US."

It seemed one of the most lucrative items was bags from the top designers: Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel etc. The trade in these bags bought in Europe and then smuggled to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan was now so large that the shops in Paris refused to sell to Asian customers unless they proved themselves to be genuinely wealthy. Pierre, being French, had no problem. He had handed over most of the bags to a contact a couple of streets down the road from the shop. The contact would then distribute them among air hostesses who could bring them into Asia easily.

This one suitcase was for one of his French students.

Pierre got out a pile of money and it appeared he had made enough to keep himself afloat for four or five months - although with Pierre you kind of guessed there was a catch somewhere.

'Let's go and get pissed,' he said.

I thought i would enjoy while the money lasted.


Paul said...

Reading your stories seems so unreal and fantastic. Don't tell me they're all true, yet. ^^

Paul said...

Reading your stories seems so unreal and fantastic. Don't tell me they're all true, yet. ^^

Anonymous said...

This business is real. I'm an American, and back in 2004, I helped a friend that works for China Airlines to bring back 3 LV bags to Taiwan from Spain. I profitted from the VAT tax refund at the Madrid airport.