The government and creative industries announced onMarch 16 the completion of the biggest crackdown on counterfeiters and benefitfraudsters ever seen in the UK.

The operation was conducted by the Department forWork and Pensions (DWP) in conjunction with British record industry associationthe BPI, film industry anti-piracy body the Federation AgainstCopyright Theft (FACT) and computer software body ELSPA.

The operation culminated with the arrest of 29suspects as Merseyside and Lancashire Police raided 17 addresses in the Liverpool, Sefton and Skelmersdaleareas. The operation has exposed five major duplicating factories operating inthese areas.

The dawn raids, which involved more than 135 police,trading standards officers and BPI, FACT and ELSPA investigators, follow a six-month investigation into benefitfraud and the supply, distribution and sale of counterfeit CDs, DVDs andcomputer games in the region. For the first time, suspects will face multiplecriminal fraud charges collectively brought by the BPI, FACT and DWP.

It is understood that 70% of the gang's fakes weresold at Liverpool's two worst piracy hotspots, Stanley Dock and WaltonMarket, with another 30% sold on to smaller units in the Liverpool area.

BPI Director of Anti-Piracy David Martin said;"The criminal gangs that control the production, manufacturing,distribution and sale of counterfeit goods may have become increasinglyorganised and large in number, but so have we.

By taking a multi-agency approach to tackle thisgrowing problem, we can not only pool our intelligence and resources, but seekfar stiffer penalties for those who profit at the expense of the creative industriesand the taxpayer alike."