Rise in fake set-top boxes supporting crime gangs

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The PSNI has warned that the rise in public demand for fake set-top boxes is supporting organised crime gangs.

Detectives from Reactive and Organised Crime Branch have seized a range of TV and computer equipment, as well as a substantial amount of money following searches in North and West Belfast on Wednesday.

The searches took place in two business premises and two homes and were part of an ongoing investigation into Intellectual Property Crime (counterfeiting) in partnership with FACT – a UK intellectual property protection organisation - and the PSNI.

Detective Inspector Pete Mullan said: “Officers seized a number of set top boxes and computer equipment as well as mobile phones and £77,000 in cash. This planned operation demonstrates our ongoing commitment to disrupting crimes involving copyright, counterfeiting and piracy.”

Detective Chief Inspector Gary Reid, who leads on PSNI’s Intellectual Property Crime, said: “People think these are victimless crimes and wonder what harm it does to buy fake goods or pirated services. It is not harmless and there are real victims as a consequence of people’s actions in buying such products such as inadvertently supporting organised crime gangs and criminals through what might seem harmless purchases.

“Police need the support of the community to help tackle this hidden crime.”

The PSNI has previously told the News Letter that such crime gangs move from sector to sector depending on changing threats and opportunities, and that members of the public buying counterfeit goods can help provide them with seed funding for other rackets such as narcotics and human trafficking.

Kieron Sharp, Director General of FACT, said: “Illegal TV set-top boxes are becoming a growing issue for the creative industries. Many people don’t realise that buying these illegal TV devices will have damaging consequences to the thousands of people working in the TV, film and sports sectors as well as the UK economy. Combatting these unlawful devices is one of our biggest priorities and so we would like to thank the PSNI for their swift action in disrupting this criminality.”