Seven arrested after customs seize books

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 January, 2010, 12:00am

Seven people were arrested after customs officers seized fortune-telling books, suspected to be pirated, from vendors on Wednesday.

A total of 140 books worth about HK$6,200 were confiscated.

They were books by fung shui masters Mak Ling-ling, Peter So Man-fung, Edward Li Kui-ming and Lam Kwok-hung.

Six men and a woman, aged between 37 and 54, were arrested. Six own newsstands, while the seventh is a sales assistant.

All were released on bail pending further investigation.

An initial inquiry had led customs to five newsstands, a bookstore and a shop selling joss sticks in North Point, Mong Kok and Yuen Long.

A copyright owner had triggered the alarm.

The seized books were being sold for HK$34 to HK$38 each - about 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than the original versions.

Catherine Yip Wai-sim, the divisional commander for copyright investigation at the Customs and Excise Department, said the suspects had attempted to profit from selling pirated copies of the books in the run-up to the Year of the Tiger.

'The suspects offered a much cheaper price to attract readers,' she said. 'As the Lunar New Year is approaching, those books will have good sales.'

Thousands of Hong Kong people buy fortune-telling books every year seeking advice and guidance for the next 12 months.

Customs previously seized 1,458 pirated fortune-telling books worth about HK$7,290 in December 2004. Seven people were arrested.

So, whose books were included in those seized from vendors, warned that copied versions could be inaccurate.

'Readers might get the wrong tips. They could make the wrong decisions, such as changing workplaces or investments,' he said.

Mak, another author whose work was allegedly pirated, agreed: 'They could get outdated tips from pirated books that were written a few years ago.'

According to the Copyright Ordinance, any person who sells a work which has had its copyright infringed is liable to a fine of HK$50,000 per copy and up to four years' jail.