Foreign suspects accused of theft

Updated: 2013-06-28 08:05

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Police have detained 19 foreigners on suspicion of stealing clothing from well-known stores in Shanghai, saying they were planning to take the goods to their home country for sale.

The suspects from two organized shoplifting gangs, are accused of stealing more than 1,500 items of clothing worth 300,000 yuan ($48,600) from stores including Zara, H&M, Uniqlo and Forever 21, in Shanghai's Huangpu district, according to the Public Security Bureau.

Authorities declined to release the suspects' nationalities, saying only that they are all from a country in Southeast Asia.

"They were successful in evading the stores' security alarms because they used special high-tech bags," said Dong Dehai, a spokesman for Huangpu police.

"These bags looks very similar to laptop bags and there is a layer in the bag that can shield the alarm signal."

One woman from the group first caught police attention on May 19 when she walked back and forward among the aisles of downtown clothing stores, wearing a large backpack .

"She browsed the clothes without buying anything and she also stared at the shop assistants instead of the goods," Dong said.

Police detained the woman, and on the same night captured another 11 suspects at her hotel, where 1,500 articles of clothing were seized.

Initial investigations found that the four men and eight women in the group arrived in Shanghai on travel visas on May 15.

Dong said: "The women were divided into two groups with one attracting the attention of clerks and the other stealing the clothes and transferring them to members outside. All the clothes they stole were for the purpose of selling them in their home country."

Another shoplifting group from the same country was busted on May 23.

Police seized five suspects in a store in East Nanjing Road and two accomplices at a hostel, where more than 400 items of clothing were seized.

"The suspects said they saw on TV that Shanghai is a commercial center with many large shopping malls."

It is not the first case of foreigners stealing clothes by using special bags.

In 2007, four women were caught stealing suits and dresses valued at more than 70,000 yuan at clothing store in Shanghai over two days.

A sales clerk at a Zara outlet in Huangpu said many clothing stores outsource work to security service companies.

The clerk said there are three security workers and 16 surveillance cameras in the store. "But more often we detect suspicious customers due to their unusual behavior and unnatural expressions," he said.

The clerk said the store has heard of new devices being used by thieves, such as tools that can detach the magnetic tags pinned on clothes to prevent shoplifting. But such offenders have never been caught.

Wu Ni contributed to this story.

(China Daily USA 06/28/2013 page3)