Genuine UK iPhone customers are missing out on Apple's latest smartphone thanks to gangs of traders snapping up the iPhone 4, destined for Eastern Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia.

A Mail Online report on Sunday highlighting the problem was supported by several unhappy Apple customers who emailed Macworld over the weekend. As Apple stores sell the iPhone contract free in the UK, profits can be made selling the phone on in countries that don't yet officially sell the iPhone 4.

One Macworld reader, who asked not be named, claimed both he, other customers and Apple staff had been harassed by gangs waiting outside a London Apple Store.

Confusion arose when a red number system, marked on people's hands, was disputed by the customer, when he was approached by a gang asking to see his number.

"Some people in the queue left because they were concerned by the intimidating and threatening behaviour being shown towards those of us in the queue without red marker," the reader told Macworld. Apple sells the iPhone unlocked for £499 for the 16GB model, £599 for the 32GB model.

"In the end I was the only one left to the best of knowledge who stood firm. Apple staff were also at the receiving end of actions that were unacceptable and there is absolutely no way Apple staff should be at risk or have to listen to such abuse. It's only going to be a matter of time before there is a incident unless this issue is addressed."

"At the counter it seemed I was the only person paying via card everyone else paid via cash. Te store was rushed by people at the end of the queue. I do hope no apple employee was hurt. I felt totally disgusted and angry that I had been in a queue for a Apple product and had been threaten and intimidated."

Apple iPhone 4

A full version of the story has been emailed directly to CEO Steve Jobs, in the hope Apple will resolve the problem.

Another reader, told a similar story, fearing a fight would break out as he queued first thing Friday morning outside a central London Apple Store. A third, simply gave up and headed into work empty handed.

Meanwhile, the Mail On Sunday and Mail Online claim those who do the queuing on behalf of the traders receive £70 for each iPhone 4 they buy.

"It’s happening all over Britain. Wherever there’s an Apple store there are brokers – in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Nottingham," the Mail reported, quoting one person involved with the trade.

"They then sell to international buyers who fly in, pick up the stock and then fly out. It’s abusing the system. I blame Apple for not taking control of the situation."

However some Mail readers dispute the story, writing in the comments section below the story online.  

"This story is a load of bull!!! Go to the singapore apple store web-site, the phone costs S$ 1,048 or S$ 888 which is equal to 425 and 500 pounds! So will someone explain to me who is making money here?," writes George, Shanghai. "So the phone costs from 499 pounds + the 70 for the broker = 469, less the VAT refund is maybe 40 pounds so the total cost is around 429 pounds and it costs 425 in Singapore. Makes sense?? NOT!!"

"I think you need to do a little more research. They have been readily available here in Asia since they came out at far cheaper prices that you would pay in the UK," adds Duncan Walker, Samui, Thailand.

Apple told the Mail they preferred not to "engage with the story." For those customers hoping to buy online, Apple currently lists a shipping date of 3 weeks when ordering the iPhone 4.