3 arrested after pirated discs sold on eBay

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 12:00am

Three people have been arrested after Customs officers busted a syndicate selling thousands of pirated discs of films to overseas buyers through an auction Web site.

The arrests this week came after United States Customs officers helped to identity the registered user of the eBay Web site, the head of Customs' Copyright Investigation division, Chong Wai-ming, said yesterday.

He said they launched an investigation after the US Motion Picture Association lodged a complaint about a month ago that a local syndicate was accepting e-mail orders and then sending pirated discs to overseas clients by mail.

Investigations revealed the syndicate had registered as the user of the Web site and then sold pirated copies in a series of gift-packs which included James Bond and X-Files movies and other Western and local titles.

'They contacted their clients and took orders via e-mail before mailing out the pirated copies to their overseas buyers. Their clients were from the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. They refused to take local orders in an attempt to avoid arrest,' Mr Chong said.

'Our investigations showed that they could make $100,000 a month by selling the pirated copies. We believe the syndicate has been in operation for about four months.'

He said a local couple, both aged 32, were identified after Customs officers sought help from their US Customs to find out the registered users of the Web site. Mr Chong said it was the first time US Customs had been involved in the Web-based anti-piracy operation.

On Monday, a 32-year-old man was arrested by Customs officers in Mongkok when he allegedly tried to mail 75 parcels of pirated film copies.

During follow-up raids on a Mongkok shop on Monday, Customs officers arrested his shop assistant, a 25-year-old university graduate, and seized a computer and some pirated copies. The wife of the 32-year-old suspect was arrested when officers raided their home in Mongkok, where another two computers and pirated copies were seized. A total of 7,600 pirated discs were seized in the operation.

A source said the shop assistant allegedly offered computer knowledge to the couple, who sell souvenirs.

It is understood they bought the pirated copies on the mainland. Officers are investigating how they smuggled in the discs. The three suspects have been granted bail pending further investigation.

The case is the 13th Internet piracy case since the Customs Anti-Internet Piracy Team was formed in April 2000.