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A Chinese woman has been stopped at the border after trying to smuggle more than 200 iPhone 4S devices from Hong Kong into the Apple-mad nation hidden inside empty beer bottles.

The woman was caught red-handed by customs officials at the Sha Tau Kok border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen and claimed she was taking the bottles to be recycled, according to MIC Gadget.

However, on closer inspection the bottles reportedly felt suspiciously heavy, and showed signs that they had been cut in half and taped back up. In total 216 shiny new iPhones were discovered, shoved in three to a 750ml bottle.

The incident shows that demand for Apple’s iconic smartphone is still high in the People’s Republic, despite the firm having relaxed a self-imposed ban on sales of the device in the country which it instituted after its flagship store in Beijing was pelted with eggs amid problems with scalpers.

The huge demand for the phones from China’s growing middle class not only continues to make the smuggling of authentic devices from Hong Kong profitable, but is keeping shady grey market operators in business too.

Just last week a Shanghai factory producing refurbished iPhones with counterfeit parts was busted by the police.

The mastermind was sentenced to three years in prison and each of the 14 young workers nabbed got 18 months, according to local news reports.

It’s all certainly keeping Cupertino’s lawyers busy – almost every week in China a new case is uncovered of IP or trademark infringement involving Apple products.

Last week it was the iPhone 5 mango-flavoured ice lolly – trademark abuse has never tasted so good. ®

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