Man in pirated CD syndicate fined 18 years after police raid; authorities thought he had left the country
SINGAPORE: A man who was part of a group dealing in thousands of pirated CDs gave the authorities the slip in 2003 after getting his brother to take over for him on the day police raided the shop.
He remained in Singapore, but authorities thought he had escaped the country and did not find him at his registered local address. He was nabbed only in 2018, when he went to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) building to ask about a passport application.
Tan Hong Yin was fined S$3,500 by a court on Tuesday (Jun 29) for one count of being party to a criminal conspiracy to sell pirated CDs. He initially faced more than 50 other charges under the Copyright Act, but these were withdrawn.
The court heard that Hong Yin, now 47, was part of a criminal group dealing in the sale of pirated software and music CDs islandwide.
Hong Yin worked for his older brother and leader of the group, 53-year-old Tan Hong Jin, for two weeks in early 2003 at a retail shop at Block 722 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6.
His role was to ensure his colleagues did not pocket any money from the sale of the pirated goods and to ensure they closed the shop properly. He was not paid a salary, but his debt of a few hundred dollars to the ringleader was waived in return for his work.
Hong Yin's second brother, 48-year-old Tan Hong Chyuan, also worked for their eldest brother Hong Jin at the Ang Mo Kio shop. He earned S$60 a day and ensured every sale was accounted for.
Another co-accused, 38-year-old Heng Kian Huat, worked at the shop as a "fall guy". He earned S$100 a day, acting as the frontman of the shop and getting arrested during police raids. He would receive extra compensation of S$2,000 per raid.
Another co-accused, 39-year-old Poh Wee Ping, worked at the shop as a "computer boy", earning S$50 a day for attending to customers and showing them how to install pirated software.
The last co-accused, 57-year-old Quirk Seng Kok, worked as a deliveryman. He was paid S$2,000 a month to pack pirated CDs into sleeves at his own home and deliver them to the leader's shops around Singapore.
THE DAY OF THE RAID
On the day of the police raid on Feb 25, 2003, Hong Yin asked his brother to take over for him and look after the shop.
Police officers conducted a simultaneous islandwide raid of the syndicate. When they got to the Ang Mo Kio shop, they found Hong Chyuan and two other co-accused, and arrested them.
They arrested the deliveryman while he had 280 pirated CDs on him.
Police officers seized 21,700 CDs from the shop during their raid. Of this, 4,436 were pirated. The CDs included pirated Windows 2000 software, Disney games and music CDs by singers like Michael Jackson, Destiny's Child, Faye Wong and Leon Lai.
The leader of the group, Hong Jin, called Hong Yin after the raid. He asked Hong Yin to follow him to Malaysia, explaining that the police had raided all his shops and that they needed to go to Malaysia to "cool down", court documents stated.
The pair went to Woodlands Checkpoint and handed over their passports to the immigration officer, who told them to move their car aside.
Hong Yin left the car to smoke, while his brother remained in the car. Hong Yin suspected that they were going to be arrested and told his brother so.
He decided he did not want to go to Malaysia anymore and his leader left for Malaysia alone. Hong Yin walked out of Woodlands Checkpoint, bought a drink and went home.
POLICE THOUGHT HE LEFT THE COUNTRY
According to the prosecution, the authorities believed Hong Yin had left Singapore in 2003 as he had been cleared for departure.
Even so, they visited Hong Yin's registered address to look for him but could not find him. Hong Yin knew the police were looking for him, but he did not surrender himself.
Instead, he lived at various addresses in Singapore between 2003 and 2018. He was arrested only after applying to ICA for a new passport in September 2018.
The judge considered that Hong Yin had a minor role in the operation and had remained crime-free since 2003.
Hong Chyuan was given two years' jail in 2003. Heng, the fall guy, and Poh the "computer guy" were given 27 months' jail each in 2003.
The deliveryman Quirk was given 42 months' jail that same year.
Hong Yin's brother and leader of the group, Hong Jin, remains at large.