SCMP Wednesday, September 6, 2000

Customs smashes pirated CD operation


Customs officers have smashed a pirated goods operation which allowed online orders from a catalogue of 4,000 local and Western pop songs and video games.
Officers set up a sting operation and discovered a Taikoo Shing flat was being used as a factory for the pirated material.
A list of the songs and games, together with an e-mail address, was printed on a Web site accessible through an Internet chatroom, said Ben Leung Lun-cheung, deputy head of the Customs Department's Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau. The music was delivered in compressed format on CD-Rom - for as little as $20 for 150 songs - after being ordered by e-mail.
After a two-week investigation, officers from the anti-Internet piracy team placed an order to be collected at Taikoo Shing MTR station on Monday night. A 25-year-old man was arrested when he handed three pirated discs to an undercover Customs officer and received marked money.
Officers raided his Taikoo Shing unit and seized 64 pirated discs, 68 pirated CD-Rom games, 43 recordable blank discs and a computer with CD-Rom writers. The discs and equipment were worth about $23,000.
"We believe the unit has been operated by the arrested person alone for about three months," Mr Leung said. Officers are still trying to find out how many customers placed orders. The arrested man, a clerical worker, was released on bail.
Last year, Customs officers seized 16.5 million pirated music and video discs, worth $290 million, and arrested 2,701 people. In the first seven months of this year, officers have seized 5.1 million pirated discs, with a market value of $94 million, and have arrested 1,799 people.