57 held in anti-piracy swoops

Fifty-seven people have been arrested in a nationwide operation designed to uncover benefits fraudsters who are operating as merchants peddling dodgy DVDs to bargain hunters.

Anti-fraud investigators from the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP), combined forces with the police and Trading Standards for Operation Zouk, and swooping on dealers at markets and car boot sales in the North East, East of England and Yorkshire.

The raids netted over half a million pounds worth of DVDs and CDs. The haul included titles such as 'Troy', 'Spiderman 2' and 'Shrek 2' – the latter two are still being shown in the cinema.

Forty-five of those arrested were claiming benefits and could face charges on benefit fraud.

Anti-Fraud Minister Chris Pond said: “This is an excellent example of how well we can tackle benefit fraud when we work closely with other agencies. Benefit cheats rip off the public to the tune of £2 billion a year. That’s £80 per household.

“We’ve already cut fraud in the two main benefits by 40% and operations like this send out a clear message to benefit crooks; ‘We’re on to you’”.

An alliance of creative industries’ enforcement bodies, led by the BPI, including FACT (representing the film industry) and MCPS (representing publishing companies), assisted the DwP on the operations. Further raids are planned for the next few weeks.

Around £10 billion a year is spent on counterfeit goods and much of it is ploughed back into other criminal activity. A further £1.7 billion is also lost through unpaid taxes on goods.

In July, raids on markets in Liverpool, Exeter and Wakefield recovered £1.1 million in counterfeit goods and led to investigations into 15 people about benefit fraud.


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