Detectives from Belfast Criminal Investigation Branch investigating organised criminality have carried out 18 searches across the Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, Dundonald and Banbridge areas of Northerm Island in conjunction with HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – a non-ministerial department of the UK Government responsible for the collection of taxes) and UK intellectual property protection organisation FACT (the Federation Against Copyright Theft).
During the searches over 8,000 cigarettes, 2.9 kgs of rolling tobacco, 232 cigars, 50 illegal streaming devices and approximately £5,000 in cash was seized.
Two men were arrested during the multi-agency operation. One 48-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud in the Galliagh area of Derry/Londonderry and has been bailed pending further enquiries. A 31-year-old man was arrested in the Dundonald area on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and possessing articles for use in fraud is currently helping with police enquiries.
“The joint operation today is a further demonstration of our determination to tackle organised crime and those that gain from it,” declared Detective Inspector Natalie McNally.
“Buying cheap counterfeit goods, cigarettes or tobacco products, which have been purchased without the relevant duty being paid, or illegal streaming devices – all of which may appear to be bargains – means that revenue to the legitimate economy is lost. This criminal activity puts jobs at risk and, ultimately, in terms of duty evasion, means there is less money available to provide for our public services, like health and education.”
“There is also a wealth of evidence that shows money made from the sale of counterfeit goods is used to fund other forms of crime, so there really is no such thing as victimless crime. We all end up paying the price.”
“Many people view piracy as a victimless crime, however consumers need to realise that illegal streaming devices offering unlawful access to TV, sport and films threaten our creative industries and the 1.9 million people in the UK working in them,” warned Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT.
“From sound engineers, costume designers, set carpenters and camera crew – hundreds of thousands of people’s jobs are directly affected each time TV, sport or films are pirated. There are also many risks facing the consumer that they may not be aware of. Not only is using a device to stream content without the right permissions or subscriptions breaking the law, but these devices pose a fire and electrical risk, as well as often exposing users to malware, viruses and explicit content.”
“Working together in partnership with other enforcement colleagues, we can target the criminal gangs who are stealing from the taxpayer, robbing public services and undermining legitimate, honest traders,” advised Steve Tracey, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC.