THE battle against computer software pirates has escalated with an industry watchdog launching raids on shops in Wan Chai. Legal documents have been served by the Business Software Alliance on retailers in the computer arcade at 298 Hennessy Road. The action follows alliance writs and Customs raids against shops in the Golden Shopping Arcade in Shamshuipo, which is said no longer to sell openly CD-ROMs carrying popular programs such as Windows '95. While the alliance has not yet released details of its latest move, it has identified 18 shops selling pirated software in the shopping centre. The Wan Chai action is likely to place further pressure on the Customs and Excise Department, which 'declared war' in September against the Golden Shopping Arcade after the alliance launched a private legal action in an attempt to close down pirate retailers. It comes amid renewed efforts by the United States to pressure China into cracking down on unlicensed computer software, music recordings and films on compact disc. Pirated goods are smuggled across the border in lorries, containers, boats, travellers' luggage and even at the bottom of vegetable carts. Hong Kong's role as a market and international distribution point is expected to come under scrutiny today when Deputy US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky meets officials and industry groups. The alliance says the Government needs to co-ordinate its efforts and bring in taxation and urge authorities to join Customs in dealing with the problem. While the notorious arcade in Shamshuipo might have been cleaned up, pirates have been springing up on the other side of the harbour. Even in the wake of the alliance's action against fake discs in the Hennessy Road arcade, they were still being hawked from boxes on Saturday night. One shop was holding a sale to clear its old stock after receiving a letter from the alliance and sworn statements with photos showing purchases. And a number of shops still had pirated versions of Windows and other office software. The office and games software was selling in corridors and shops for $40-$60, or three for $100-$120. Pirated video CDs of popular films such as Pretty Woman were selling at three for $120. As small groups of shoppers milled around the boxes of fake software and movies, shops selling legitimate products such as Windows '95 for $550 (10 times the price of copied versions) were almost deserted. The alliance - which represents the big software companies - is also targeting two shopping centres in Tsuen Wan and another in Mongkok where 23 retailers are said to be selling pirated programs. Investigator Frank Knight, who represents top US distributors, spent last week checking thousands of seized discs. Customs officials were doing a good job trying to contain the problem in Hong Kong but discs continued flooding over the border, he said. 'Hong Kong is suffering as a result of inaction on the part of enforcement authorities on the other side,' said Mr Knight.