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£5m Czech-made, UK-bound illegal CD business stopped

Four pirate CD traders were today convicted for running a £5 million illegal operation that imported copyright-infringing CDs from the Czech Republic and sold them in shops and stalls across South East England. The court found all four defendants guilty of conspiring to defraud the music industry.

The case was brought by the Fraud Prosecution Service acting on information from the BPI and IFPI. In January 2008, two of the defendants (Wasim Mir and Ayaz Qureshi) pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the music industry. Today, the jury at Snaresbrook found the remaining two defendants (Farhat Nissa and Mohammed Shaikh) guilty as charged.

Nissa and Shaikh were found guilty after an eight-week trial. The court heard that Nissa's company, SFH, one of the largest independent brokers, based in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, was commissioned by Wasim Mir, a market trader, and others to import the CDs. Mir admitted supplying market stalls and shops throughout the South East.

The operation involved the manufacture and distribution of unlicensed pirate urban music compilations. Some of these became brands in their own right with the In The Club series running for more than 15 editions.

BPI made a test purchase of a CD which was dispatched to IFPI’s Forensic facility. Using state-of-the art forensics, investigators were able to pinpoint the source of the discs and trace them back to a manufacturing plant in the Czech Republic, whose operators helped identify the convicted four UK traders. Waseem Mir was arrested and his storage facilities raided by the police. During that raid 25,000 infringing discs were recovered and again samples were sent off for forensic examination by IFPI.

BPI estimates suggest that more than 400,000 boxsets containing between two and five CDs, some with DVDs, which sold for around £12 a title, were imported during the fraud. The conspirators now face an application for their assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

IFPI’s Head of Enforcement, Len Hynds, said: “This was a sophisticated criminal conspiracy of international proportions. The pirate’s business model netted them vast profits dispelling the myth that music piracy is about street level rogue traders – the truth is that it’s highly organised with far reaching societal impact. Essentially this case was cracked through cooperation between the industry bodies and law enforcement in the UK and Czech Republic. Of course none of this would have been possible without the efforts of the Metropolitan Police and I applaud its foresight and efforts pursuing this case. Experience tells us that organised crime will turn its hand to whatever makes a profit – if it thought that music piracy was a soft option it should think again.”

Story filed 10.03.08

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