ecord confiscation order awarded against convicted DVD pirates
A record confiscation order resulting from the importation and sale of pirated DVDs has been awarded against two men, who were imprisoned for the crimes in 2003. The subsequent detailed financial enquiry carried out by Judge Bing in to their assets has now concluded with both Dino Simms, (already jailed for 2½ years on pleading guilty in 2004), and Sydney Austen, (already jailed for 4 years in 2004), being served with confiscation orders to the value of £600,000 and £800,000 respectively.
This case brings in to sharp relief what many in the investigative and enforcement agencies have known for a long time – that the perception that film piracy is a casual, minor misdemeanour or low level local nuisance is erroneous, and that the importation and sale of illegal DVDs is a serious crime which merits close attention, as clearly demonstrated by Judge Bing in this case.
The initial arrests of Simms and Austen demonstrate how a multi-agency approach can pay immense dividends, quite literally, when tackling film piracy.
The efforts of FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft), Essex police, Waltham Forest Trading Standards, HM Revenue and Customs and the Assets Recovery Agency all came in to play at various stages of this investigation, which led to the arrest and imprisonment of these two prolific traders.
Originally caught selling imported illegal DVDs in East Street Market, Barking, by Waltham Forest Trading Standards officers in March 2002, Simms, of Malaysian origin, was found to have at a property 3,500 pirated DVDs. He was bailed, but unluckily for him, during a subsequent search of a property following an apparently unrelated arrest of a man on charges of credit card fraud, Simms turned up at the same address - carrying large quantities of pirated DVDs. He was again arrested.
The arrest of Sidney Austen followed when Essex police in Harlow suspected Austen of being drunk in charge of a vehicle – the vehicle was found to contain quantities of pirated DVDs.
Due to an investigative collaboration by Essex police and FACT, an address given by Austen was subsequently searched, and during this search at 2.00 a.m., the already unlucky Dino Simms arrived yet again, once again in possession of quantities of illegal DVDs, and £10,000 in cash.
At a further address the Thai girlfriend of Sydney Austen was found, along with £35,000 in cash. Records of a Thai bank account in the name of Sydney Austen showed the accused to have £125,000 in the bank in Thailand. Though all were arrested again, all were bailed.
Following this bail, a further address given by Simms was searched, and though no illegal DVDs were found, police uncovered cocaine, £43,000 in cash and a false driving licence and a false birth certificate.
While the progress of the arrests, bail, and further arrests can seem almost farcical at times, the sheer volume of illegal product, and the immense amount of money secreted ‘merely’ as a result of involvement in pirated DVDs is surely a clarion call to all involved in investigating and prosecuting these prolific crimes.
Commenting on the immensely successful outcome to this enquiry, Raymond Leinster, Director General of FACT said:
“We are naturally delighted at the outcome of this case, which is both the result of excellent collaboration on the part of the investigative and enforcement agencies involved and the conscientious, incisive financial investigation carried out by Judge Bing.
This case recognises the huge gains criminals can make from pirated DVDs, and the equally huge risks they are running in terms of their liberty and their financial wellbeing as more and more people recognise the true nature of this crime.”
In calculating the repayments due Judge Bing has included the tangible assets including equity in their homes, and illegal gains calculated on the basis of their transactions during an 18 month period. They have 8 months in which to sell their properties and 3 months in which to find the balance of the money owed.
Should either of the accused decide not to release the money owed under the confiscation order to the Crown, they face up to a further 5 years imprisonment.
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