More illicit sellers have been caught in the past 10 months than all of last year Sixty-six mainland visitors have been arrested for selling pirated music and video discs in Hong Kong in the first 10 months of this year. The figure is more than triple the number of two-way permit holders arrested for the same violation in all of last year. Most of the two-way permit holders were paid $200 a day to work as salespeople in shops where they sold a mixture of genuine and pirated copies at different locations in Hong Kong, the Customs and Excise Department said. Less than 20 mainland visitors were arrested for selling pirated copies in the whole of last year, said Chong Wai-ming, head of the Customs Copyright Investigation Division. 'In the last two or three months, more mainlanders were found working in these shops during our operations,' he said. 'We believe that pirate-disc dealers hire mainlanders to sell illicit copies in an attempt to escape arrest and cut down on costs.' Customs officers are raiding at least 20 shops a day in piracy 'black spots', locations where offences are common. The outlets are suspected of selling pirated music and video discs. Yesterday, Commissioner of Customs and Excise Timothy Tong Hin-ming said the arrest figure was still very low considering 5 million mainlanders visited Hong Kong during the past 10 months. He said that, after a persistent crackdown against the illegal activities, the number of black spots selling pirated discs in Hong Kong had dropped from more than 1,000 in 1998 to about 80 this year. Mr Tong said the vigorous enforcement efforts would continue. 'Hong Kong customs will not make life easy for these pirated-disc dealers because infringement of copyright impedes investment on innovation and is very bad for legitimate business,' he said. The Customs and Excise Department is to set up an Alliance on Protection of Intellectual Property Rights with rights owners to improve the effectiveness of customs enforcement work. Under the alliance, intellectual property rights owners will ensure that shops selling goods bearing their trademarks are genuine.