| Buhecha: Reel worry
London, Feb. 23: An Indian businessman, identified as the 'Mr Big of Bollywood Piracy', was sent to prison for three years by British authorities, who have decided to make an example of him.
Jayanti Amarishi Buhecha, from Cambridge, who was selling pirated DVDs of films such as Mohabbatein, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Mujhse Dosti Karoge, Deewane and Sathiya ' he had even managed to procure 34,000 illegal copies of Veer-Zaara ' was making '26,000 a month from his counterfeit trade.
Although Indian movies still cannot be shown legally in Pakistan, trading standards authorities say that Britain is being flooded with pirated copies of Bollywood movies manufactured in 10 'factories' in Pakistan. They supply dealers like Buhecha.
The action against Buhecha has been spearheaded by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), whose anti-piracy director, David Martin, alleged: 'Our intelligence is that on any Pakistan Airways flight from Karachi there'll be 30 to 40 people bringing in DVDs, effectively acting as mules.'
It is estimated that 70 per cent of Bollywood DVDs and CDs sold in the Asian areas of the UK, such as Southall in west London and the Midlands, are pirated versions.
Martin added: 'Jayanti Buhecha was a major player in the counterfeit Bollywood music and film business, so we're pleased he's been put away. But the problem simply will not disappear with him. Others will take his place, so it's vital that keep up our efforts in this field.'
Buhecha's case is that of an honest man gone bent. He used to work for Avtar Panesar, of Yash Raj Films, one of the principal distributors of Hindi films in Britain. 'He was my authorised distributor,' Panesar confirmed. 'For two years, he was very honest and hard working and used to show my films in Cambridge.'
Then, Buhecha realised he could make much more money, developing a secret sideline of his own, selling pirated DVDs. When caught, he paid Panesar '16,000 in compensation and promised to mend his ways. But the lure of making easy money was too strong, and even when he was arrested by police and let out on bail, he resumed his illegal trade.
In a seven-day criminal trial at Harrow Crown Court, he was found guilty of two offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994. The cast against him was brought jointly by the British Phonographic Industry and the Brent and Harrow Trading Standards Department.
Sentencing him to three years, Judge Madge told Buhecha: 'You are one of the biggest Bollywood pirates in the UK. A heavy penalty is called for because of the enormous damage to legitimate business.'
As Bollywood business grows in Britain, the tax authorities can no longer turn a blind eye to what was previously regarded as 'inter-ethnic trade'. Apart from the income tax evaded by people like Buhecha, the authorities also miss out on the 17.5 per cent value added tax on sales.
When Buhecha's home and a locked garage were raided, police seized over 18,000 counterfeit DVDs and 27,500 counterfeit inlay cards. Officers found 500 counterfeit DVDs and further incriminating business documentation in his car.
The haul also included counterfeit security holograms, delivery notes and import documents. Computer equipment found in his home was found to contain accounts, records and emails which proved that Buhecha was sourcing the movies from around the globe. Malaysia, too, is an important source of pirated DVDs.
However, no one believes that Bollywood piracy will end with his conviction. 'If Buhecha is making 26 'grand' a month, it's more profitable than going into drugs or guns,' a spokesperson for the BPI said.