Guns and guilders as Dutch authorities smash major pirate syndicate
Eighty thousand pirate compilation compact discs have flooded onto the Dutch market each month in recent years. Sold in bars, restaurant, schools and clubs, the discs, including Braun MTV Eurochart and Hit Explosion, have racked up sales estimated at US$ 50 million since 1995.
Tackling this level of organised crime demanded an innovative response and led in mid 1997, to a joint investigation by the special investigation department, Buma Stemra and the National Crime Squad. Investigators were intent on dismantling the organisation, from financiers to wholesale distribution, through criminal conviction and confiscation of the criminal proceeds.
Identification of the "producer" proved to be a major break through. This individual selected tracks for the compilations and arranged premastering. Despite the use of anti-surveillance techniques and coded communication by the suspects, the premastering engineer, courier, head of logistics and the major organisers were successfully identified. This surveillance also established the affluent lifestyles of those involved as the pirates gorged at the expense of the legitimate industry.
On "CD Day", 8 September, 1999, 400 police officers were deployed nationwide to conduct arrest and search actions. The producer and the two syndicate heads were caught red handed as the premaster was exchanged. In this initial wave firearms ammunition, illegal CDs and evidence of the financial dealings of the syndicate were seized as a total of ten suspects were arrested and 50 locations in Holland and two in Germany searched. The US$ 1.6 million cash, thirty vehicles, luxury goods and jewellery seized are now subject of applications for confiscation with a view to some monies being used to finance future anti-piracy actions.
The criminal courts are expected to reach verdicts on serious criminal charges including, copyright infringement, forgery, receiving stolen goods and participation in a criminal organisation in the summer of 2000. Meanwhile civil action will be pursued on behalf of NVPI and copyright society, Stemra, rightholders with a view to claims for damages and forfeiture of illegal profits.
The case, one of the most complete successes ever against a major manufacturing and distribution syndicate, clearly illustrates that piracy is an
organised crime activity undertaken by ruthless criminal groups. The music industry salute the Dutch National Crime Squad and Buma Stemra on a superb