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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

US seeks resident's arrest over 'global piracy ring'

Sam Nhance, who is believed to live in the emirate, faces years in jail if convicted

Dubai resident is said to be part of a gang that hacked into US film producers' computers and stole content.
Dubai resident is said to be part of a gang that hacked into US film producers' computers and stole content.

A Dubai resident is wanted in connection with a "global piracy ring" in which blockbuster Hollywood movies were stolen and sold online.

Sam Nhance is one of five people sought by American authorities for hacking into the computers of a number of US film producers and copying the content.

Hundreds of films and TV shows including smash-hits Fifty Shades of Grey, The Expendables 3, The Walking Dead and Taken 3 were stolen.

The piracy ring also allegedly recorded cinema screenings illegally, and obtained copies of films sent to industry professionals.

Mr Nhance “procured and maintained the computer server on which the co-conspirators stored and manipulated digital files for further distribution,” the US Department of Justice alleges.

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The US indictments were filed at the United States District Court for the Central District of California earlier this year.

Also named as being part of the piracy ring are Malik Luqman Farooq, from the UK, who has been arrested on related charges in London and is awaiting trial.

The remaining defendants are Aditya Raj and Jitesh Jadhav, believed to live in India, and Ghobhirajah Selvarajah, believed to reside in Malaysia.

If extradited and convicted of the charges, the men could face years in a US federal prison.

Online piracy is a well-known yet increasing issue for the TV and film industry.

According to one study, the illegal downloading and streaming of movies will cost the industry $52 billion by 2022 (Dh191bn), up from $6.7bn (Dh 24.6bn) in 2010.

The five men are alleged to have carried out their conspiracy between early 2013 and the spring of 2015.

Once they obtained the movies and other content, the defendants are said to have altered the properties of the computer files to make them easier to distribute online prior to their official release.

In February 2015, one of the defendants allegedly told a prospective buyer that the piracy ring could offer copies of the films “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” for sale on the same day as their US release.

The co-conspirators are also alleged to have previously operated a website used to distribute pirated Bollywood films, known as “BollyTNT.”

The men are not currently in US custody, but have been named in a seven-count indictment that charges them with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, unauthorised access to a computer, aggravated identity theft, and copyright infringement.

“A federal grand jury today indicted five men in four countries on federal charges alleging they distributed or offered for sale stolen digital versions of hundreds of motion pictures and television shows – including “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “The Expendables 3” and “The Walking Dead” – prior to their official release,” a press release issued by the US Department of Justice said.

“An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.”

The conspiracy, computer hacking, and copyright violation charges each carry a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

The charges of aggravated identity theft carry a mandatory two-year sentence to run consecutive to any other sentence imposed in the case.

Updated: December 13, 2018 11:02 PM

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