Customs smashes piracy syndicate

5 Aug 2005

Hong Kong Customs officers yesterday (August 4) smashed a piracy syndicate with triad operators, believed to be active in the sale of pirated optical disks (PODs) in Mong Kok, in an operation codenamed "Glacier".

Financial investigation showed that the syndicate had made use of the banking and betting accounts for laundering its crime proceeds.

Legal advice is being sought with the Department of Justice for application of a Restraint Order under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO) to freeze proceeds of the syndicate. Initially, assets of the syndicate members were estimated as about $1.2 million. Further investigation will be carried out in tracing their assets.

If a Restraint Order is granted, this will be the third time for crime proceeds to be restrained under OSCO in relation to a copyright piracy case.

Yesterday afternoon, Customs officers of Special Task Force, Financial Investigation Group and Intelligence Bureau raided 10 locations in Kowloon Bay, Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui, Cheung Sha Wan, Kwai Chung and Yuen Long, covering four industrial and commercial premises, three shops and three residential premises.

As a result, one disk replicating workshop, two storage centres and three retail outlets of the targeted syndicate were neutralised. A total of 16 sets of disk replicators, each installed with a CD-ROM and 8 disk writers, and 100,000 PODs, worth about $2 million, were seized.

Six men and 12 women, aged between 18 and 46, were arrested. Of them, 14 arrestees were Mainlanders who had been employed by the syndicate to perform non-core functions like disk replication, packaging and delivery.

Customs officers believed they had arrested core members of the syndicate, including a ring leader, in yesterday's operation. The core members, believed to have triad background, were locals.

All arrestees will be charged under Copyright Ordinance while the 36-year-old ring leader will also be charged under the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance. They will appear in Kwun Tong Magistrates' Courts for mention tomorrow (August 6).

The spokesman said, "The crackdown is again a testament to the Department's steadfast commitment to clamping down piracy activities, particularly in rooting out piracy syndicates. We believe this will serve as a strong deterrent to potential offenders."

Under Copyright Ordinance, anyone who is found in possession of any infringing article for commercial purpose is liable to prosecution. The maximum penalty is four-year imprisonment and a fine of HK$50,000 per infringing article.

Ends/Friday, August 5, 2005

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