In the largest raid of its kind ever seen in Canada, the RCMP has shut down an alleged music-counterfeiting operation based in Winnipeg, seized tens of thousands of pirated CDs and DVDs and laid multiple fraud charges under the Criminal Code and the Copyright Act.
The principal target was Winnipeg entrepreneur Raj Singh Ramgotra, whose Audiomaxxx company is accused of having manufactured illicit compact discs and pornographic movies for several years.
They allegedly were distributed across Canada, the United States, Europe and Jamaica.
Three company employees also were charged.
In Toronto alone, nearly one-third of the pirated CDs seized each year were Audiomaxxx products, the Canadian Recording Industry Association estimated. More recently, Audiomaxxx had also been selling pirated digital downloads, the charges also state.
More than 200,000 music CDs and DVDs, thousands of movie DVDs and hundreds of thousands of blank discs were seized in Wednesday's raid on the Audiomaxxx office, along with five CD/DVD burning towers that together are capable of burning more than 10,000 CDs and DVDs a day.
Among the downloads allegedly on offer were tracks by such popular singers as Shania Twain, Lionel Richie, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige and Nelly Furtado.
But the charges against Audiomaxxx also encompass the material of lesser-known artists, including "a lot of up-and-comers from Canada and the U.S.," said CRIA anti-piracy director Terry Hunter. "And on top of that they were getting prereleases. Before the record company even got the tracks, these guys were somehow able to get them and release them."
Piracy and unauthorized file-swapping costs Canada's legitimate music sector tens of millions of dollars annually, the record industry says. Since CRIA began dedicated anti-counterfeiting operations in 2006, the association and police have seized more than 400,000 CDs and issued 80 cease-and-desist orders against retailers of illegally copied music.
In the case of Audiomaxxx, the RCMP's year-long investigation was prompted by complaints from artists and music companies.
"We're working to get rid of these guys and I hope this sends out a signal," Mr. Hunter said. "The record industry, the artists themselves and anyone who deals with the record industry has been losing money from this."