Friday 22nd June/...Yesterday saw the successful launch of a new multifaceted crime-fighting initiative in which three people from the North East of England were put under investigation for producing and selling modified games chips and 'chipped' Nintendo® Wii and DS, Microsoft® 360 and Xbox®, and Sony® PlayStation®2 and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) consoles.
In a radical new departure for the way anti-piracy operations are handled, Police officers from the Cleveland Police Economic Crime Unit in conjunction with Stockton Police, two Trading Standards authorities and members of ELSPA (the Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association) Anti-Piracy Unit, joined forces to hit three premises simultaneously.
The raids: two at separate addresses in the Billingham area and another in Lingdale were carried out at 7:30 yesterday morning, where an Aladdin's Cave of illegal 'chipping' equipment, counterfeit and pirated games plus other infringing items were seized.
A husband and wife in their late 30s were questioned at one of the Billingham addresses over the discovery of a purpose-built construction at the house that was found to be was "full to the brim" with large quantities of illegal Wii, DS, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and Xbox chips, together with various circumvention devices. At the Lingdale address, where a man in his late 20s living with his elderly grandmother is also under investigation, a fully functioned 'chipping line' was discovered. Thousands of chips for the aforementioned consoles together with assorted blank media, PC and duplicating system, and piles of consoles waiting to be chipped were also found strewn around the house.
It appears that at least two of the three suspects questioned were offering pirated games for sale over the internet and a significant quantity of advanced electronic devices and chips that allow counterfeit gaming to be played on almost every current console; they were also selling illegal copies of the games themselves.
The successfully executed operation is the outcome of a scrupulously planned six-month investigation involving Cleveland Police Economic Crime Unit and Financial Investigations Department, North East Trading Standards (Stockton and Cleveland & Redcar) and their newly appointed Regional Intelligence Officers, Scambuster team and ELSPA.
Teaming-up for unprecedented cross-boundary activity, all strands of enforcement authorities were able to swoop using their collective resources, which involved looking into companies, examining their products and manufacturers and conducting financial probes. This cooperation avoided the usual lengthy enquiry process that was previously in place.
Prevention and disruption of illegal Internet trading is now the number one priority for all UK economic crime authorities, where traders of counterfeit goods and pirates have been operating with relative anonymity and virtually unchallenged. Criminals operating on the Internet or in the marketplace now face tough and effective counter-measures to deny them opportunities to profit from the sale of counterfeit goods and the theft of Intellectual Property.
Michael Rawlinson, Managing Director of ELSPA said "We were delighted with the outcome of this operation, finding and bringing criminals to book. We would like to thank Cleveland Police, the Trading standards department and all those who worked so hard to achieve this result. We now call on all police and trading standards authorities to act with the same level of commitment in order to protect legitimate businesses and consumers against these exploitative criminals."
Detective Inspector Bill Matthews, Head of Cleveland Police Economic Crime Unit said: "This case is an excellent example of a multi-agency approach to tackle organised criminal activity. We have had significant successes in the recent past working with local Trading Standards departments and this is a natural extension of that relationship. This is a very modern, Hi-Tech and growing form of criminality that needs a fresh, cooperative approach to tackle it. We will use the considerable powers at our disposal under the Proceeds of Crime Act to ensure that the substantial financial gains made from this type of crime are removed from those responsible."
Councillor Steve Neslon Stockton's Cabinet Member for Housing & Community Protection said "We were pleased to cooperate with the other agencies in this matter. Working together maximises the impact that we can have against this type of criminal activity. One of our service priorities is to disrupt traders operating in the informal economy, and this initiative is an example of that."
Dave McLuckie Cabinet Member for Community Protection said: "I am absolutely delighted that the hard work across the agencies has produced such excellent results. People should be aware that by buying pirated equipment they are buying something that is unlikely to be of good quality an ultimately leads to a complete waste of their money."
A financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) is underway. This can lead to serious financial loss for those criminals involved.
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.
For further information on ELSPA or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Tel: 01462 456780
Fax: 01462 456781
Issued by: Barrington Harvey, Trooper's Yard, Bancroft, Hitchin SG5 1JW