Six people from a tutorial school for young children have been arrested on suspicion of copyright infringement after customs officers seized 500 photocopied books from its four branches.
The name of the school was not revealed but the group involves three companies and has four centres in Tsuen Wan, North Point, Sha Tin and Kowloon Tong.
The three directors and three staff members, aged between 23 and 48, were arrested after a month-long undercover operation in which customs officers posed as parents.
The English-language books are published by Oxford University Press. The copies were sold for HK$25, some 60 per cent off the price of an original.
"[The books] are not the main source of income for the school," divisional commander Guy Fong Wing-kai said. "It's a gimmick to lure parents into enrolling their children in the course."
Fong said officers were still investigating how many copies the school had sold during its six months of operation.
The seized books covered 60 different titles. Fong said the department had acted following a tip-off from the publisher's Hong Kong distributor.
The courses offered by the school were aimed at children from nursery to early primary level, he said. It is understood that each two-month course costs about HK$1,000 and involves four to five books.
The tutorial school's receptionists allegedly told the undercover officers that the original books were too expensive to buy, and offered them the photocopies at the lower price.
The detectives were also allegedly told that the course and the books were recommended by top educators.
While customs have not received a lot of similar complaints, Fong said he would not rule out the possibility that other smaller tutorial schools were using similar tactics.
He said parents buying the copied books could face civil lawsuits from the publisher.
Other items seized include three computers and three photocopiers valued at HK$117,000. Scanned images of the books were found in the computers.
The maximum penalty for the offence of breaching copyright is four years in jail and a HK$50,000 fine for each infringing copy.