Police Shut Huge UK Pirate DVD Factory
The biggest pirate DVD factory ever to be discovered in the UK has been closed down, stopping an operation that could churn out 60,000 illegal DVDs every day. Altogether 300 film titles were discovered, from the latest animation feature, Ice Age 2 – due in UK cinemas tomorrow - to pornography films featuring bestiality.
Experts said the pirate operation followed the growing trend for gangs to set up ever bigger DVD burning factories in the UK, as a result of customs officers having stemmed the flood of pirate films coming in from from Asia.
The illegal factory, housed in an industrial site in Leyton, east London, was more than twice as big an operation as any discovered in the UK previously. Officials say the Leyton set-up could have been creating enough discs to yield a daily turnover of £250,000, selling on streets, pubs and market stalls for around £5 each.
Piracy costs the film industry an estimated £300m a year and police say it is increasingly linked to international organised crime, and the illegal drugs trade.
More than 500 DVD burner machines were discovered at the factory yesterday and five Chinese men arrested. The men face prosecution under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Last night they were being held at a police station in east London. A number of knives were also found at the factory. Police say the pirate gangs were scared of being caught and also feared being robbed by other gangs.
The Guardian newspaper was given exclusive access to the factory yesterday lunchtime, shortly after the raid.
The Guardian reports that the gang had been there for some time, with plates of food left and boxes of bananas, tomatoes and lettuce. A filthy mattress was propped against the wall near to boxes of pornographic DVDs which it was estimated accounted for around 30% of the total seized discs.
Michael Buchan, a senior investigator with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) says "All of the machines were running when we came in, making copies of Ice Age 2 and they were probably running them 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
FACT had tipped off the police and trading standards about the factory after a vehicle suspected of transporting pirate films was seen in the vicinity.
Mr Buchan said: "There was just a sea of boxes full of discs when we came in and vehicles were probably arriving all the time to take them to multiple addresses where they are stored before they go onto the streets all over the UK."
He said that many of the new films were sourced by the pirates by using camcorders to film new releases in the US, or from illegal download sites.
Eddy Leviten, a spokesman for Fact, said the factory was probably one of the biggest of its kind to have been discovered anywhere in the world. He said children were often used by gangs to sell the discs - including the pornographic material.
The majority of the DVD pirate gangs were made up of Chinese nationals, Mr Buchan said. "Most of them are illegal immigrants who are working off a debt to pay for them being brought over here illegally. Some of them are sending thousands of pounds back to China every week.
"One seller told me he could make £2,000 a week. Don't feel sorry for these guys traipsing around pubs trying to sell them. There is a mind boggling amount of DVDs being sold. We need to change attitudes among the public and stop the demand.
"In Barcelona and Madrid you get fines for buying them - we need to make it illegal here too."
Ironically, a colour inlay for DVD discs seized yesterday had a graphic saying "Piracy creates jobs ... piracy does not support Terrorism."
But Raymond Leinster, director-general of FACT, said: "In fact piracy robs people of jobs in the film industry ... we are determined to work together with the police and other enforcement bodies to ensure that we continue to disrupt the supply chain and affect the distribution of counterfeit films across the UK."