Sunday Life

O'Loan office swoop
Ombudsman part-timer quizzed over fake DVDs

19 December 2004

Racket-busting cops have sensationally swooped on the Police Ombudsman's offices - in a hunt for counterfeit DVDs.

The police swoop followed the discovery of bootleg DVDs in luggage belonging to an investigator, who worked for Nuala O'Loan's office.

A routine airport check is believed to have triggered the unprecedented investigation, at the Belfast HQ.

A female employee in the Ombudsman's Cathedral Quarter offices was quizzed about the purchase of counterfeit DVDs in the office.

Sources say the woman unwittingly bought six DVDs from the investigator - who was employed on a temporary freelance contract - without realising the legal implications.

The Police Service last night refused to say when detectives visited Ms O'Loan's office - or provide any other details about the operation.

The swoop is understood to have taken place within the last week-and-a-half.

Sources close to the investigation say that at least six fake DVDs - which are believed to have been prepared as a Christmas gift for someone outside the office - were seized following the police swoop.

A "shopping list" of 400 popular DVD titles is also understood to have been found in the operation.

The Police Service would not confirm reports yesterday, that detectives were granted warrants to search the homes of two members of the Ombudsman's staff.

The revelation comes at a time when the Police Service and NIO are mounting a major drive against counterfeiters - some of whom have links with loyalist and republican paramilitaries.

On Friday, members of the Organised Crime Task Force swooped on parked cars near St George's Market in Belfast, and seized an estimated £2m of fake DVDs, cigarettes and other counterfeit items.

In a statement to Sunday Life last night, the Ombudsman denied her offices had been searched. It said: "No home-copied DVDs were found in the Ombudsmans Office.

"No member of the Ombudsman's staff, or anyone connected with the office, has been intercepted at any location and found to be in possession of such material.

"No member of staff, or seconded officer, has been arrested or charged with any offence, and police have not supplied us with any information to suggest that a member of staff should be suspended.

"We understand police are investigating an individual in relation to home-copied DVDs, but the person is not a permanent or seconded member of staff.

"He had been working for us on a daily contract, which has now been terminated."

East Belfast MP Peter Robinson said: "Had this been a policeman's locker where counterfeit DVDs were hidden, or being prepared for transit to a buyer, the officer would have been suspended from duty immediately.

"He would also probably now be facing a criminal charge of possessing counterfeit goods, with intent to supply."

The Police Service told Sunday Life last night that detectives were continuing to investigate an allegation related to "intellectual property crime", at the Ombudsman's office.

A spokesman said no arrests had been made and no file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He added: "The investigation is continuing."

lMeanwhile, three men appeared in court in Belfast yesterday charged with having £17,000-worth of fake CDs and DVDs.

Martin Armstrong (30) from Shaftesbury Avenue, Gerard Lane (22) of Cooke Street and Matthew Doherty (20) of Powerscourt Place, all Belfast, were each charged with two counts of possessing counterfeit goods, when they appeared at Belfast Magistrate's Court.

Armstrong was further charged with two counts of possessing an offensive weapon, namely an extendable baton and a cosh.

The officer in charge of the case told the court that he believed he could connect all three accused to the charges.

Resident Magistrate, Ken Nixon, released the trio on their own bail of £500 each, on condition that they do not enter St George's Market in the city-centre.

It is understood that the trio were allegedly caught with around 700 CDs and DVDs, after an early-morning raid on Friday.

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