Bilal Khan, a 23-year-old Pakistani trainee accountant, has been sentenced to 12 months in prison and fined £15,000 for selling thousands of pounds worth of counterfeit software.
Khan, from Lewisham, pleaded guilty to five offences under the Trademarks Act and asked for 11 others to be taken into consideration. He was sentenced to an additional three months for missing bail and fleeing to Pakistan for nine months. Half of the total sentence was suspended. According to the prosecution, his turnover was up £4,500 per month.
Khan was selling pirate software, primarily copies of Adobe, Macromedia and Microsoft products, via online auction sites such as eBay and QXL. In certain cases he accepted money but did not send the software to the buyer.
Following a complaint filed by a London-based accountant to the Business Software Alliance (BSA) that the software he had bought on eBay was counterfeit, the Lewisham Trading Standards department started an investigation into Khan's activities.
Lewisham's deputy mayor Gavin Moore said: "We hope that this case will go some way to deterring those who carry out similar activities. Mr Khan has not only stolen the work of a number of software providers but has caused a lot of grief to consumers who were affected by his scam."
Khan had used 19 aliases to set up accounts with internet auction sites, and was selling software for between £40 and £60, the court heard. In one instance, to sell more software, he actually used the personal details of someone taking legal action against him in the small claims court.
His home was finally raided in 2000. During the raid, 236 discs of counterfeited software, boxes of blank CDs, a laptop and a CD burner were found.
Khan was then tried at the Greenwich Crown Court, but skipped bail and escaped to Pakistan from where he continued his operations. Nine months later, he returned to the UK on a visit. He was simply stopped by the police for a suspected faulty exhaust but was arrested when his fugitive status was discovered.
A BSA internet investigator said: "We've worked on this with Lewisham Trading Standards for two-and-a-half years. In the end we tracked him down by making a purchase and used legal channels to back-trace where he sent the package from. Over 1,000 hours of time has gone into this and we're pleased to see a result."
While passing the final sentence, his wife's poor health was taken into account along with the work he had done in the prison community while on remand in Belmarsh.