Men jailed over 'seedy' porn DVD business

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The Independent Online

Two businessmen who masterminded one of Britain's largest DVD porn empires were jailed today.

The "lucrative and seedy" operation run by Tehsin Panju and Hitendra Patel was so extensive that police needed five lorries to remove all the material.



Officers investigating the six-year long enterprise estimated "almost a quarter" of the films "were obscene and therefore illegal", London's Southwark Crown Court was told.



"This is to date the largest seizure of pornographic material the Met's Obscene Publications Squad has ever dealt with," said Natasha Tahta, prosecuting.



She explained that, as well as 38 pallets containing "hundreds of thousands" of £8-a-time videos and a large number of customer catalogues, police recovered an array of copying equipment during the raid in July last year.



Investigators also found £26,380 at the men's Shepherds Bush headquarters in west London along with a client database containing "thousands of names".



In addition, a safe deposit box yielded £41,000 cash while a storage unit contained nearly £6,500.



Ms Tahta told the court the defendants' Direct Media firm, set up in 2002, regularly sent catalogues advertising their wares and then processed orders mailed to a post office box.



Panju, 49, of Brae Court, South Norwood, south east London, and father-of-two Patel, 47, of Malvern Gardens, Harrow, north west London, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to publish obscene articles between August 30, 2007, and July 9, 2008.



Panju also admitted three money laundering counts.



Sentencing, Judge Peter Fingret said: "This, on any view, was a very large scale operation over several years.



"Whilst it is apparent that many thousands of DVDs were in the process of circulation and dispatch, I accept not all of them came within the Obscene Publications Act."



Considering the Crown insisted it was 25% and the defence maintained it was less than 1%, "it was not possible for me to determine the true proportion".



"However, the scale of the operation, even on the basis of a small percentage, would necessarily involve a large number of obscene DVDs.



"I am satisfied each of you played different roles in the business, although it is not possible to distinguish between you each of your roles being as important as the other.



"I do not accept that the principal objective was to provide for the needs of your customers. The primary objective was clearly to make money from what was, on any view, a lucrative and seedy business," said the judge.



Rejecting probation report recommendations for suspended sentences, he added because the offences were so serious and "efforts do need to be made by the courts to eliminate this sort of trading, immediate custody is the only possible outcome".



A confiscation hearing will be held early next year.