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Gang members who ran the UK’s biggest counterfeit DVD factory have been sentenced on 21 June to a total of seven years and 10 months before Southwark Crown Court, after being found guilty of infringing copyright and conspiring to distribute illegally copied DVDs.
Police estimate at the height of its operation the gang was capable of generating £95,000 a day from this single location alone by reproducing up to quarter of a million fake titles a week that were then sold on the streets of London.
Gang members had developed a sophisticated distribution operation, couriering the burned DVDs across London to 15 ‘shops’ in residential properties in Deptford and Lewisham. Large numbers of sellers would then visit the addresses on a daily basis and select the titles to sell at locations across London and the South East.
On 12 April before the Old Bailey, Mirza Amjad Beig, 45 from Hounslow was found guilty of two counts of infringing copyright and one of conspiracy to distribute items. Amin Zulfiqar, 28 from Feltham, Middlesex was also found guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute articles infringing copyright.
The ringleaders of the crime, Prikshat Sharma, 27, and Rahul Divan, 35 pleaded guilty to charges of Conspiracy to Manufacture and Distribute Counterfeit DVD’s Subject to Trade Mark in March this year.
A third man Ajay Singh Ahulawalia 50, also pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Manufacture Subject to Trade Mark and concealing criminal property on the same day (21 March).
In 2009 a joint operation between City of London Police, Metropolitan Police and FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) saw the gang’s illegal business closed down. Police raided two sites in Wembley and Southall, seizing millions of pounds worth of equipment that was used as evidence in the case.
Police confiscated a large-scale professional printing press, 440 DVD burners and 60,000 copied and packaged DVDs ready for distribution. The counterfeit titles included blockbuster movies including Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Watchmen, Gran Torino and Australia featuring stars such as Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and Dev Patel. Police also discovered 250,000 blank discs and one million professionally printed full colour covers.
City of London Police Det Chief Insp Dave Evans who oversaw the operation said:
“Criminals are eager to target the Capital as a base for these activities, setting up factories and then taking advantage of the huge number of potential customers on their door step.
“But anyone who buys fake DVDs should think long and hard about what they’re doing. This is not a victimless crime. It not only damages the film industry but the huge profits generated are also often used to fund other criminal activities.
These men ran an organised business, with a specialist factory capable of producing millions of fake DVDs. City of London Police has put them out of business for good with these convictions.”
Kieron Sharp, FACT Director General, added:
“This was a sophisticated criminal enterprise producing millions of counterfeit DVDs and making substantial amounts of money for those running it.
Organised criminal gangs such as this threaten the livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people working in the UK’s film and television industries and contribute nothing to the legitimate UK economy.”