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Thousands of illegally copied discs discovered in multi-agency swoop

Friday 20th October 2006/ Raids at addresses across Wales, Cheshire and the Wirral resulted in the arrest of 10 people who had been selling illegally copied games, DVDs and CDs.

The raids, which were carried out at 5.00am on Sunday 15th October, followed an operation to uncover rip-off merchants who claim benefits whilst making a living selling pirated goods to bargain hunters on Greenfield Market in Flintshire.

A multi-agency taskforce led by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) investigated allegations of benefit fraud and other illegal activity in a joint operation codenamed 'Buzzard'. DWP Shadow Economy Teams from Merseyside, Cheshire and North Wales combined forces with Trading Standards, HM Revenue & Customs and three police forces, resulting in thousands of illegally copied games, DVDs films and music CDs being seized with an estimated monetary value of £600,000. Besides teaming up with ELSPA, the investigators also worked closely with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) and Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).

Following the intelligence-led initiative, which included test purchases and secret filming by ELSPA investigators, the 10 were arrested under suspicion of being directly involved with the production and consequent sale of illegally copied discs. Three copying factories were discovered during the raid containing in total over 1000 Xbox 360 game discs, several Game Boy Advance cartridges (containing up to 145 games), plus an undisclosed number of Xbox and PlayStation 2 games.

Those arrested were taken to police stations in North Wales and Cheshire and are assisting the police with further enquiries.

Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA commented: "The replication of computer and video games software and any other multimedia product is illegal and has a negative impact on both local and national businesses. ELSPA would like to thank the efforts of all agencies concerned in their attempts to protect legitimate local traders and remove illegal products from the marketplace."

Ron Hughes, Trading Standards Manager for Flintshire County Council, added: "This has been a wonderful example of a joint working partnership arrangement. Whilst our investigations are still at an early stage it appears from the items seized that the intelligence-led partnership working has been worthwhile. I would warn anybody who may be involved in the supply of counterfeit goods that once convicted by the courts, the penalties can be very severe including lengthy custodial sentences. As well as losing all the goods involved, offenders also risk having their assets seized under new 'Proceeds of Crime' legislation."

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About ELSPA - http://www.elspa.com

ELSPA (The Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association) was founded in 1989 to establish a specific and collective identity for the computer and video games industry. Membership includes almost all companies concerned with the publishing and distribution of interactive leisure software in the UK.

ELSPA's activities include: Official Chart and Industry Reports, Anti-Piracy UK and EU, PR and Communication, Events. More information on all these activities can be found at http://www.elspa.com.

About Software Piracy and its negative impact on both consumers and industry.

ELSPA estimates criminal gain through computer and video games piracy sits at approximately £540 million.

Piracy/counterfeiting is illegal and punishable by fines and jail sentences.

The illegal copying of software poses the very real threat of criminal prosecution and a criminal record, as well as the risk of massive personal financial loss under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Consumers have no recourse under law for faulty pirated games, which can damage hardware.

Counterfeited/pirated games are often mixed with obscene or pornographic material.

Local and national jobs are lost as result of pirate operations.

Proven links exist between many organised counterfeiting organisations and dealers in drugs and pornography.

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