Industry hails largest-ever Bollywood fakes haul

The UK recorded music industry has announced that an anti-piracy operation conducted over the past week in west London included the seizure of 200,000 Bollywood CDs and DVDs.

Valued at just under £1 million at counterfeit prices, this is comfortably the UK's biggest ever haul of Bollywood music and film.

UK record industry association the BPI completed the raids with Ealing Trading Standards and Southall Police over the past week; the majority of which took place at the Shurgard self-storage unit in Hayes, Middlesex.

500,000 items were seized in total during 10 raids at the self-storage site on Uxbridge Road at Hayes, near Southall.

The estimated 13 tonnes of merchandise included Hollywood, Bollywood and pornographic DVDs, cover sleeves, blank DVDs, CDs, and counterfeit clothing. Around 75 per cent of all DVDs seized were Bollywood titles.

While pirate DVDs would usually be sold for between £3 and £5 each, officers believe the trainers and clothing could have been passed off as genuine items and sold for close to the regular retail price. Genuine items equivalent to those seized would have an estimated value of more than £5 million.

Four people were arrested, whom the BPI alleges were the ringleaders of an extensive counterfeiting operation, and three cars were seized together with more than £6,000 in cash.

Named “Operation Don” after the new Bollywood action blockbuster of the same name, the investigation was led by the council’s trading standards officers with the BPI. Southall Safer Neighbourhood police teams also participated on the raids, which followed months of intelligence gathering by the three organisations.

BPI General Counsel Roz Groome said:

"We understand that this is the biggest seizure of Bollywood counterfeits ever seen in the UK. Our members will be pleased to hear that this operation has disrupted what we believe to be a hugely significant piracy operation extending throughout west London and beyond.

"With intellectual property crime often linked to other areas of crime and benefit fraud, we also urge consumers not to support counterfeiters by buying their goods."

Councillor Will Brooks, Ealing cabinet member for environment and transport, who has responsibility for trading standards, said:

"Smashing this ring at its heart will have a major impact on the counterfeit market in West London and beyond. Our action sends a clear message that we are a step ahead of their game and will not let this crime go unpunished."

"Piracy has links to organised crime and other criminal activity including the drugs market, violence, benefit fraud, and the abuse of people who are forced to sell these items on the street"

DVD titles seized included the latest Bollywood films Don, Umrojaan and Jaaneman, Hollywood smashes The Devil Wears Prada, Borat, and Saw III, and yet to be released films including this year’s Christmas movie The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.

Investigations are ongoing and possible charges will be made under sections of the Trade Marks Act 1994, the Video Recordings Act 1984 and the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988.

* The raids took place on Friday 10 November where 8 units were raided and Wednesday 15 November where a further 2 units were raided.

* The BPI represents the British recorded music industry. The organisation’s anti-piracy work protects performers and the UK record companies who provide the vast majority of the essential investment in new British music – an investment that runs into hundreds of millions of pounds.

* Music counterfeiting costs the industry an estimated £165 million a year in lost sales, according to BPI/IPSOS research.

* The total loss to the audio visual industry through copyright theft, including file sharing, home burning and borrowing other people’s fake DVDs is estimated at more than £818 million, £450 million of which is the value of lost DVD sales, £277 million box office takings and £74 million from the rental sector. The criminal gain from DVD piracy is estimated at £278 million. Source: British Video Association/ IPSOS / FACT

* The BPI supports the submission made by The Alliance of Intellectual Property Theft to the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property. It is lobbying for government to close the piracy "enforcement gap" by both listing intellectual property crime as a police priority, and by giving Trading Standards proper resources, powers and duty to tackle the problem.