Fake Aussie toy importer on the move
Special news.com.au investigation
As Australian Made launches a legal audit of fake Aussie toy importer Wei Zhang, he is clearing his warehouse, removing and relocating boxes for off-site storage and distribution.
Boxes of the Chinese-manufactured, container-imported toys were removed early on Monday morning by a family-owned white van and Mercedes truck.
Mr Zhang, who emigrated from China to Australia in the 1990s and started his importation business in 1997, owns three Sydney properties including a large home in Strathfield.
The businessman has denied he imports the toys tagged "Australian Made", saying they are cut, sewn and stuffed inside the Lansvale warehouse.
News.com.au revealed exclusively last Friday that Mr Zhang imports kangaroo and koala soft toys from his native China and markets them here under fake versions of the iconic Australian Made label.
The Shanghai-born Mr Zhang manufactures the plush toys in a factory outside his home city and ships them here in bulk in shipping containers.
The toys then have their "handcrafted in China" labels secretly removed and replaced with bogus green-and-gold labels stamped "Australian Made", the internationally known and trusted brand.
Australian Made chief executive Ben Lazzaro told news.com.au his legal team had begun an investigation into Mr Zhang and his company, Oz Natives, which is also known as Autong Trading.
On Monday morning, two vans arrived at Autong's Lansvale warehouse and left with boxes of the toys.
Just after midday, a truck belonging to the freight, transport and warehousing facility CTI Logistics arrived at Autong Trading and began loading boxes.
Some of the boxes, which are stamped "Autong" and "Made in China", appeared to have had stickers identifying what type of koala or kangaroo toy they contained torn off.
The truck then took the cargo to the massive 20,000-square-metre logistics distribution centre at Ingleburn, where the boxes were slapped with stickers saying "WA".
Mr Zhang sells his Chinese-made koalas and kangaroos as "Australian Made" to shops all around the country.
Exclusive video filmed inside the warehouse four years ago shows a worker swapping the tags, and the space stacked to the ceiling with boxes of the imported toys.
A special news.com.au investigation has tracked the latest shipment of toy koalas and kangaroos which arrived on January 22 this year in a container aboard the Chinese ship YM Wealth.
Port Botany sources confirmed the container, which news.com.au filmed being unloaded at the manufacturer's southwestern Sydney warehouse, sailed from Shanghai, China on January 1 via Taiwan and Melbourne to Sydney.
A former worker at the toy warehouse told news.com.au that the Australian Made tags she attached to the toys were also fake, and manufactured in China and imported with the Chinese toys.
The famous logo with a stylised yellow kangaroo against a green background on a triangular-shaped tag is an internationally trusted brand meant only for locally made goods.
Video filmed last month obtained by news.com.au shows the Chinese-Australian man who runs the toy business and his staff unpacking a container load four days before Australia Day.
They are the same boxes with the company's name, Autong, on the side with "Made in China" on the box.
Mr Lazzaro told news.com.au Australian Made was pursuing an investigation of Oz Natives, as "all complaints regarding misuse of the logo are investigated by the Australian Made Campaign and its legal team".
"Unfortunately, there will always be some businesses that intentionally break the rules and deceive," he said.
"In these instances, the Australian Made Campaign will pursue these businesses aggressively."
Mr Zhang from Oz Natives denied the claims and told news.com.au that although the fabric for the toys was imported from China, all "the cutting, sewing and stuffing" of the toys took place at Lansvale.
He blamed both "disputes" from the past and a "dirty tricks" campaign he alleges has been played on him by someone in the 30-unit strata complex where he warehouses his toy imports.
According to the Australian Made criteria, Australia "must be the country of origin of each significant ingredient or significant component of the good".
For the logo to be used, "all or virtually all, processes involved in the production or manufacture of the good must have happened in Australia".
The ex-employee of Autong told news.com.au no manufacturing was done on the premises.
Two old sewing machines were kept there "just for show" along with a stitched but unstuffed toy koala, the former staff member revealed.
She said when she was first employed there, the toys arrived with a fabric tag saying "handcrafted in China" which she was instructed to remove.
The Autong toys are designed in Australia but wholly made in China, and "Manufactured in China" is written on the tag they arrive with and which is then removed in the warehouse.
It is replaced with two new tags, one with the brand "Oz Natives" plus the "Australian Made" triangular tag attached to the toy animal's ear.
As business grew, the toys would arrive from China with a "Made in Australia" tag sewn in, although the cardboard Chinese labels were still attached and had to be removed and replaced with the "Australian Made" triangle tags.
The ex-staffer told news.com.au on a previous occasion following a visit by an Australian customs officer, 600 boxes of koalas and kangaroos were moved out of the factory to store at a family address in the Sydney suburb of Merrylands.
Originally published as Fake Aussie toy importer on the move