Customs officers have raided outlets in a computer shopping centre in Hong Kong suspected of selling consoles loaded with counterfeit games and unblocking devices that allow users to play pirated games.
The raids were carried out after English-speaking staff of the console’s copyright owner were deployed to pose as tourists and buy illegal products from shops, Assistant Superintendent Lawrence Ng Chun-wah of customs’ intellectual property technology investigation division said on Wednesday.
He said the undercover operation was carried out because the illegal products were only sold to tourists and regular customers in an attempt to avoid detection.
Five shops in the Sham Shui Po shopping centre were raided on Tuesday, with 27 circumvention devices and 110 sets of consoles loaded with pirated games, worth HK$210,000 (US$26,783), seized and five men arrested.
Two of the men, who were aged between 28 and 37, were shop owners and three were sales assistants.
Customs officers began investigating the activities after receiving a complaint from the copyright owner about a month ago.
Ng said the devices, which can circumvent preset anti-piracy measures in genuine consoles, permitting users to play counterfeit games, were sold for about HK$2,000 each.
Prices of the seized consoles, which were loaded with up to 2,000 pirated games, ranged from HK$500 to HK$3,000.
Ng said officers were still trying to trace the supplier and the source of the products.
The five suspects were released on bail pending further investigation.
In Hong Kong, making or selling a device to circumvent anti-piracy measures is punishable by a fine of up to HK$500,000 and up to four years in prison, according to the assistant superintendent.
Under the Copyright Ordinance, the maximum penalty for distributing pirated copies is a $50,000 fine per copy and four years’ imprisonment.