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POLICE SINK CD PIRATES; 12 homes hit in biggest raid in the UK.

Byline: By GREG O'KEEFFE

A CD piracy ring worth millions of pounds was smashed by police today.

In raids on 12 Merseyside homes, 21 people were arrested and thousands of CDs, DVDs and computer games seized.

Police also confiscated CD burners, computers and other equipment in the raids, the largest of their kind in the UK. Up to 135 officers targeted homes in Kirkby, Fazakerley, South-port and Skelmersdale in Operation Zealot, uncovering four production factories believed to be chief suppliers of CDs, games and DVDs to Stanley Dock and Walton markets.

Eddy Leviten, from the Federation Against Copyright and Theft, said investigators had all the addresses under surveillance for six months.

"You can go to the market and confiscate the goods at the stall, but they will be back the next week.

"Today we've struck at the heart of this piracy operation, which costs the record, film and software industry millions in lost revenue.

"These people are making thousands of pounds and many are living on benefits."

The Department for Work and Pensions also took part in the raid.

Outside the first house raided in Fazakerley officers found market stall tables and dozens of CDs. A BMW and Lexus parked outside will be impounded.

Officers found around 24 boxes of computers and DVD-burning gear at a semi in Travis Drive, Kirkby.

Films unreleased in the UK, including the new Pink Panther, were among the haul.

Profit made by pirate traders can end up in the pockets of criminals involved in drugs and gang crime.

Counterfeiting costs the entertainment industry an estimated pounds 77m a year' the figure increased by 30% in 2004.

Last year, the ECHO revealed fake DVDs produced for less than 50p each sell for up to pounds 5 on Mer-seyside market stalls.

The National Criminal Intelligence Service says 60% of the organised crime gangs involved in counterfeiting, or intellectual property theft, are also drug traffickers.

The Anti Counterfeiting Group says 12% of all toys and sports goods, 11% of clothing and footwear and 10% of perfume and toiletries are fake.

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COUNTERFEIT: Police officers carry pirate DVDs, CDs and copying equipment from a house in Travis Drive, Kirkby
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 16, 2006
Words:362
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