Reassembled Playmobil figures 'projected violent image'
Stolen Playmobil toy characters were sold on the internet after they were reassembled into macabre-looking knights holding bloody decapitated plastic heads, a court heard yesterday.
These illegal Playmobil characters were not assembled or packaged according to the company's standards, Playmobil representative Anna Agius told Magistrate Edwina Grima.
This risked damaging the company's image that revolved around helping children experience life through play, she added.
She explained that Playmobil had received reports that stolen characters were being sold in a Buġibba shop and also on eBay - an international internet site for buying and selling goods.
Some of the characters sold on eBay went against company image as they projected a violent message. Some showed a knight holding a head with a spear lodged in it.
Ms Agius was concerned that if the German head office was not satisfied with Malta's safety standards this could jeopardise the job of about 800 employees at the Malta Playmobil factory in Ħal Far.
Ms Agius testified in the case against Francis Difesa, 51, of St Paul's Bay who was arraigned for illegally selling stolen Playmobil parts to the Buġibba shop. The shop owner is also expected to be charged.
In a separate case Nadine Cutajar, 26, of Għaxaq was charged with selling the toy characters on eBay but was not charged in connection with the macabre figures. Police will be arraigning the person who assembled the bloody toys. Both Mr Difesa and Ms Cutajar pleaded not guilty to handling stolen property, tampering with Playmobil toy characters without authorisation, circulating the manipulated toys and breaching copyright on the company trademark on and before March.
During her testimony Ms Agius explained that tourists informed the company that they had bought a bag filled with Playmobil characters from a Buġibba shop.
Company representatives went to the shop and found that it was true. The shop was selling bags containing about 10 to 20 characters for a ridiculously cheap price, she said.
It turned out that the parts belonged to the company however they were not assembled or packaged according to company standards and had not passed safety tests.
She explained that Playmobil figures were all assembled in Malta. The factory, based in Ħal Far, subcontracted assembly works to smaller companies which carried out the job according to set standards.
Meanwhile, she said, the mother company informed Playmobil in Malta that some figures were being sold illegally on eBay.
Testifying in the case of Mr Difesa, Police Inspector Carmelo Magri said investigations led police to the accused. During a search at his house police found bags filled with Playmobil parts and a machine used for sealing plastic bags.
Mr Difesa cooperated fully with the police and explained that he bought the parts from people who were subcontracted by Playmobil to assemble the characters, the inspector said.
However, he added, Mr Difesa said he was under the impression that he was not doing anything illegal as he was buying their left-over parts. However, the inspector added, subcontractors were bound to return left over pieces to the company. Mr Difesa also admitted selling the toys to the owner of a shop in Buġibba, he said.