Chinese police and the FBI have collaborated to bust two gangs in Shanghai and Shenzhen and seized pirated software worth half a billion dollars, officials said yesterday.
The gangs were pirating Microsoft and Norton software for sale in the United States, said Gao Feng, deputy director of the economic crime investigation department of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS).
Police raided the gangs from July 6 to 16 in an operation codenamed "Summer Solstice", which is claimed to be the biggest and most successful joint crackdown on software piracy.
"This unprecedented cooperative effort led to the arrest of 25 individuals, and over 290,000 pieces of counterfeit software were seized along with assets worth US$7 million," Steven Hendershot, the FBI's legal attache in Beijing, told a press conference in Shenzhen.
"The counterfeit software has an estimated retail value of US$500 million," the Los Angeles Field Office of the FBI said in a statement.
In the US, FBI agents carried out 24 searches, which yielded US$2 million in counterfeit software products, in addition to assets seized worth over US$700,000.
"Law enforcement officials in both countries worked closely by sharing information to jointly investigate multinational crime conspiracies by groups who manufacture and distribute counterfeit products around the world," the statement said.
Gao said Chinese police discovered in 2005 that the Chinese gangs were colluding with suspects in the United States and notified the FBI's Beijing office.
The FBI's Los Angeles office found that at least two Chinese men from Shenzhen were suspected of producing and selling pirated software in the United States, Gao said.
The FBI statement said it is believed that 70 percent of the pirated software was sold to the United States, with the rest going to countries like Canada, Australia and Britain.
"The majority of Chinese-based distributors advertised their products aggressively and recruited distributors via the Internet," it said.
A suspect, Ma Kepei - who was indicted in New York for criminal copyright and trademark violations relating to the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit Microsoft products in 2003 - and 10 accomplices, were arrested in Shanghai.
Wang Wenhua, Che Tingfeng and 12 accomplices were arrested in Shenzhen.
All of them have been charged with violations of China's criminal copyright law and are in custody, according to MPS.
Official figures showed that Chinese law enforcement authorities have seized 231 illegal production lines for making counterfeit disks since 1996 and arrested 510 suspects.
(China Daily July 25, 2007)