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Major UK software pirates found guilty

Profits of £1.5m

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The National Crime Squad and Microsoft have secured guilty verdicts on a London-based four man software counterfeit crew. The gang recorded profits in excess of £1.5 million.

Three of the four men are awaiting sentencing next month after being found guilty by an Old Bailey Jury on Friday. The fourth jumped bail and legged it back to his home in Pakistan. They had been brought to trial three months ago.

The business was run out of an East London accountancy firm. The team was led by Sikander Qureshi, aged 55, from Stanmore. He was convicted of conspiracy to defraud alongside Shaheen Parveen, aged 42, from Kingsbury and Zafar Ahmed, aged 40, from East Ham. Parveen's brother, Babar Manzoor, aged 25, high tailed it back to Pakistan.

According to the Sunday Times Parveen and Ahmed, who both refused to give evidence, said they'd been working for a Chinese man, Mr Wong, and didn't know they were doing anything wrong.

The gang was first arrested at the end of 1998. When they got bailed they moved their operation but police shut them down again and grabbed more evidence.

They were first caught after Customs officers at Heathrow got a lucky break and intercepted a package full of fake MS software, sent from a business address in Thailand to Qureshi's accountancy firm in Shoreditch High Street, London.

The parcel was sent to Qureshi but when it arrived Hackney trading standards team swooped and grabbed more software, and a shrink-wrapping machine. The National Crime Squad joined in the investigation and caught the team on CCTV camera visiting their lock-up.

Bank records suggest the gang made more than £1.5 million in profits. Only £80,000 was recovered.

Qureshi and Parveen had been held in custody after breaking bail restrictions. Police caught them hiding in a wardrobe at Parveen's house.

Qureshi claimed in court that he was a good pal of Benazir Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari. His wife appears on the Asian TV station ZTV. ®

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Sunday Times story

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