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Crime

Got an illegal set-top box in Hong Kong? Be careful, customs is cracking down ahead of World Cup 2018 in Russia

Eight arrested and 354 boxes worth HK$320,000 seized in weekend raids in Wan Chai and Sham Shui Po

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 May, 2018, 6:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 May, 2018, 6:51pm

Hong Kong customs officers have arrested eight people and seized 354 illegal set-top boxes worth HK$320,000 (US$40,800) in a clampdown on illegal television streaming ahead of the Fifa World Cup in Russia next month.

More arrests are likely to follow after a top official from the Customs and Excise Department warned on Monday that the crackdown would continue ahead of the eagerly anticipated tournament, which Hongkongers watch in droves.

Guy Fong Wing-kai, head of the department’s Intellectual Property Investigation Group, said the arrests, which took place in Wan Chai and Sham Shui Po on Friday and Saturday, were made after undercover officers entered the shops posing as customers and attempted to buy a box.

According to the department, the seven men and one woman, aged 18 to 45, were the owners and sales assistants in the four shops that were targeted.

“They were suspected of installing apps into the TV set-top boxes to watch pay TV programmes for free,” Fong said.

He said initial investigation showed some devices, which cost between HK$700 and HK$1,000 each, could receive more than 100 pay-TV and movie channels in Hong Kong and from overseas.

In addition to poor image quality and signal interruption, the superintendent said the devices sometimes did not work.

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He said those arrested faced a maximum sentence of four years in prison, and a HK$500,000 fine. All four were released on bail pending further investigation.

“With the 2018 FIFA World Cup just around the corner, customs will continue to step up street and internet patrols to curb any form of infringing activity,” Fong said.

The group head also urged members of the public to report any suspicious activity to the department’s 24-hour hotline, on 2545 6182.