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- 31 arrested after multi-agency crime raids target criminal counterfeiting ring
- More than 135 officers and investigators involved in multiple dawn raids
- Five major duplicating factories raided
- Suspects face multiple fraud charges in private prosecutions
- Industry hail multi-agency approach as best way to tackle organised crime
The government and creative industries today announced the completion of the biggest crackdown on counterfeiters and benefit fraudsters ever seen in the UK.
The operation was conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in conjunction with British record industry association the BPI, film industry anti-piracy body the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and computer software body ELSPA.
The operation culminated today with the arrest of 31 suspects as Merseyside and Lancashire Police raided 17 addresses in the Liverpool, Sefton and Skelmersdale areas. The operation has exposed five major duplicating factories operating in these areas.
Today’s dawn raids, which involved more than 135 police, trading standards officers and BPI, FACT and ELSPA investigators, follow a six-month investigation into benefit fraud and the supply, distribution and sale of counterfeit CDs, DVDs and computer games in the region.
For the first time, suspects will face multiple criminal fraud charges collectively brought by the BPI, FACT and DWP. If convicted, they face having the proceeds of their crimes confiscated.
It is understood that 70% of the gang’s fakes were sold at Liverpool’s two worst piracy hotspots, Stanley Dock and Walton Market, with another 30% sold on to smaller units in the Liverpool area. The DWP estimate that an average counterfeit stall in Liverpool was turning over £4,000 a day.
The raids come amid increasing cooperation between Government and the creative industries to fight the growing problems of benefit fraud and intellectual property theft.
Following the arrests, DWP’s Anti-fraud Minster James Plaskitt said; “This operation is proof that by working together we are tackling benefit fraud and counterfeiting. People who commit benefit fraud take money intended for the most vulnerable in our society. The public can help the department’s skilled fraud investigators stamp out benefit fraud by calling the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440”
BPI Director of Anti-Piracy David Martin said; “The criminal gangs that control the production, manufacturing, distribution and sale of counterfeit goods may have become increasingly organised and large in number, but so have we.
By taking a multi-agency approach to tackle this growing problem, we can not only pool our intelligence and resources, but seek far stiffer penalties for those who profit at the expense of the creative industries and the taxpayer alike.”
Raymond Leinster, FACT Director General said; “Working with the DWP, the Police, Trading Standards and HM Revenue & Customs we are seeing increasing recognition of the serious nature of piracy and the criminal organisations behind it.
We are also working with the Assets Recovery Agency to ensure that the monies and assets gained from piracy can be identified and recovered using the Proceeds of Crime Act.”