Music industry applauds police crack down on Russian credit card fraud and pirate CD ring
12 January 2001 - Russian-made pirate pop CDs, carrying music from Boyzone to Britney Spears, were the scent that helped police uncover the most sophisticated credit card fraud case ever seen in Britain.
The global recording industry, led by its trade body IFPI, today paid tribute to officers of the City of London Police Cheque and Credit Card Unit as the case headed towards sentencing of the ringleaders at Southwark Crown Court in London. Details of the case came to light today for the first time as the reporting restrictions were lifted.
The pirate music CDs were part of a massive Russian organised crime operation, with couriers on false passports smuggling supplies from St.Petersburg to a secret counterfeiting factory in North London.
Police cracked the ring after months of investigation involving undercover officers who posed as buyers of the top-hit pirate CDs. The leader of the Russian syndicate and an accomplice - Vladamir Stroguine and Alexander Tanov - have pleaded guilty to various conspiracy charges. Sentencing, scheduled for today, was postponed to 2 February pending a medical report.
The Russian criminals had produced thousands of perfect-quality fake credit cards by "stealing" and then copying the magnetic details from customers' cards in restaurants and hotels. Equipment seized by police included special duplicating plates to forge the hologram security marks of Visa and MasterCard.
The case shows an increasingly prevalent form of credit card fraud. A network of accomplices working as waiters or shop assistants would secretly clone the credit details with special swipe machines. The information was then handed to the Russian syndicate and fed into a laptop computer to create an exact copy of the card.
As well as selling on thousands of fake cards and defrauding Britain's banks of millions of pounds, the gang distributed their top-hit CDs to retail outlets across London and South East England.
The organisations representing the recording industry internationally and in Britain, IFPI and BPI, today hailed the convictions and praised City of London officers who broke up the operation in a raid in the capital in January.
IFPI's Head of Enforcement Iain Grant said: "This was a superb police response, and there is great deal to learn from it - scratch the surface of a pirate CD operation and you increasingly find the kind of large-scale organised crime syndicate that was seen in this case."
IFPI Chairman and CEO Jay Berman said: "Music piracy is a fast growing illegal business operating globally, costing artists and companies billions in earnings. This case has shown how music piracy also feeds the whole underworld of organised crime".
Anti-piracy investigators from IFPI and BPI worked closely with the police in investigating the fraud and pirate CD case. David Martin, Director of Anti-Piracy at the BPI, said: "Britain has one of the world's most successful music industries - keeping it that way depends on decisive actions like these against the international CD pirates".
IFPI heads the music industry's fight against the fast-growing traffic in pirate CDs, now valued at more than $4 billion worldwide. The problem is closely linked to other forms of organised crime, including drugs, firearms and money-laundering.
Russia has one of the world's highest rates of music piracy, with more than 60% of all recordings sold illegal inside the country and large quantities of pirate exports going around Europe and elsewhere.
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