Hong Kong hands out highest ever jail sentence to movie pirate

MUMBAI: On 27 July, Hong Kong’s deputy district judge M. Chow handed out Hong Kong’s stiffest ever penalty for movie piracy distribution at the conclusion of a three year investigation and prosecution of an organized criminal syndicate arrested for distributing pirated movies.

Ten members of the gang were convicted and sentenced to prison for periods ranging from 11 months to 74 months. Mastermind, Tang Wai-man aged 33 was sentenced to 74 months while another senior figure, 31-year-old Kong Wai-chun received 58 months. The sentences were enhanced 30% by Judge Chow under the provisions of Hong Kong’s Organized & Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO).

In addition Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department (HKC&ED) has seized and frozen $1.1 million worth of assets related to the crimes and will initiate action to confiscate the money.

The arrests in this case were made on 14 and 15 February, 2007, following a year-long investigation by HKC&ED. The investigation culminated with raids on three warehouses and three retail shops, the arrests of the ten defendants and the seizure of more than 33,000 seized discs infringing Motion Picture Association’s member company titles, including Happy Feet, Night At the Museum, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and X-Men: The Last Stand.

"Hong Kong leads the region in its willingness to investigate, prosecute and punish copyright offences like movie piracy. Cases like this send a powerful message of commitment and support from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to our industry. It also sends a clear message to criminals contemplating copyright crimes: you will go to prison and you will lose your illegal gains," said Motion Picture Association president and managing director, Asia-Pacific Mike Ellis.

"This is a great result for legitimate business and for the member companies of the Motion Picture Association. Protecting the creative and financial investment that goes into making and distributing movies is essential for the industry in Hong Kong. Our whole industry greatly appreciates the professionalism and commitment of the Hong Kong government, particularly the Hong Kong Customs & Excise Department, in protecting intellectual property rights and making Hong Kong a good place to do creative business," said International Federation Against Copyright Theft – Greater China executive director and general manager Sam Ho.

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