Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Music pirate faces $2 million in fines and restitution

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A plea bargain has been struck in Canada's largest-ever piracy case -- one that will see a Winnipeg business owner pay more than $2 million in fines and restitution.

Details of the legal deal emerged Thursday for the first time during a court hearing. The five-year-old criminal case was set to finally be resolved, but has now been adjourned one more time until next month.

"This case is like going through barbed wire. There's always one more point," Crown attorney Jeremy Akerstream told court in explaining the latest snafu.

Raj Singh Ramgotra, 36, was arrested in 2008 following an extensive RCMP investigation into Audiomaxxx, which was suspected of selling bootleg copies of music, movies and even pornography on the black market. Officers raided his Pembina Highway business, seizing numerous computers, equipment and elaborate DVD-burning and printing machines.

The Canadian Recording Industry Association called it "20 times bigger" than anything that had been busted in the country. They believe Audiomaxxx had been in business for several years, building a massive online customer base.

Ramgotra appeared in court Thursday, with Crown and defence lawyers saying he has agreed to a two-year conditional sentence that allows him to remain free in the community. He will also pay $1.9 million in restitution, which is the total loss estimated from the illegal enterprise.

Ramgotra will also pay $150,000 in fines, which authorities say is the amount he profited.

Provincial court Judge Brent Stewart will have to agree to the joint recommendation at the upcoming sentencing hearing for it to become official.

At the time of the arrest, CRIA president Graham Henderson called it a victory for the little guy. He said many of the artists being pirated by Audiomaxxx were small Caribbean and reggae musicians that "urged and begged" the CRIA to investigate.

Major artists weren't spared either -- the CRIA said Audiomaxxx was illegally selling music by Shania Twain, Nelly Furtado and Jay Z as well as many other well-known names.

A visit to the Audiomaxxx website showed the company was selling all manner of music and movies for $3.99 to $5.99 each, far below normal retail. The site also offered digital downloading of videos and music.

The police raid netted investigators more than 200,000 CDs, labelled and ready for shipment.

Ramgotra's case has slowly dragged through the legal system, due largely to the massive amount of evidence obtained during the year-long investigation and disclosure required for the defence.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 A9

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