Customs smashes syndicated piracy by e-commerce

2 Mar 2005

Customs officers from Special Task Force today (March 2) neutralised a syndicate, believed to have auctioned pirated disks via an e-commerce system and sent the disks to overseas buyers by express mails, in a raid operation against three residential premises and a commercial unit.

Three men aged between 20 and 43, including the ring leader, were arrested and will be later charged for infringing the Copyright Ordinance. The case will be heard at the Kwun Tong Magistrates' Courts tomorrow (March 3).

A spokesman for the Customs and Excise Department said today (March 2) that the Department is consulting the Department of Justice to apply the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance for the second time on intellectual property rights related crime to freeze the assets of the syndicate worth nearly $40 million, including three residential units, two car park spaces, a saloon car, watches, jewellery and cash.

As follow up investigations into the neutralisation on January 25, 2005 of a syndicate involving the export and local sale of pirated DVDs of Japanese cartoon and local films, and a packaging centre, Customs officers today raided three residential premises in Tai Kok Tsui, Mong Kok and Lam Tin respectively, and a commercial unit in Kwun Tong with the execution of search warrants.

In the operation codenamed "Sting" on January 25, Customs officers raided a pirated disks packaging and storage centre in a commercial unit in Kwun Tong, resulting in the seizure of about 230,000 pirated disks of Japanese cartoon. In the follow-up investigation on January 26, Customs officers seized about 10,000 pirated disks of Japanese cartoon from a consignment due for export to the United States during a search in a logistics company in Sha Tin. The total seizure was worth about $6 million. Two men and two women, aged between 28 and 43, were arrested.

In about a-month-long investigation work following the above operation, officers from the Customs Financial Investigation Group had joined in gathering and analysing evidence relating to the criminal proceeds of the syndicate members.

Initial investigations showed that the syndicate had procured copyrighted disks from overseas and made use of production lines in the Mainland to replicate disks unlawfully. Once pirated disks were produced, they were smuggled into Hong Kong for packaging and storage. The syndicate auctioned disks and accepted orders from overseas buyers via an e-commerce system; and send the disks to overseas buyers by express mails.

The spokesman said, "The crackdown is again a testament to the Department's steadfast commitment to clamping down piracy activities for the protection of intellectual property rights. We believe this will serve as a strong deterrent to potential offenders."

Ends/Wednesday, March 2, 2005

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