'World's biggest CD pirate' jailed for 3 years

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The "world's biggest bootlegger", who made up to £15m defrauding some of showbusiness's most famous names, was jailed for three and a half years yesterday.

During a scam that lasted at least 11 years, Mark Purseglove, 33, of Chelsea, west London, used thousands of illicit recordings made by sound engineers and concertgoers to build himself a global counterfeit CD empire.

Oasis, the Beatles, Eminem, David Bowie, Madonna, Prince, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones were among the hundreds of artists he targeted.

Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Mick Hucknall, Jason Kay of Jamiroquai and Des'ree had been lined up to give evidence against him if he had not admitted his guilt.

Blackfriars Crown Court in London heard that Purseglove sold his discs at music festivals, shops and online for up to £130 a time with the help of a worldwide network of contacts.

Underpinning his empire was a business acumen second to none and an unrivalled arrogance. His contempt for the law was indicated by his choice of labels for his discs: Criminal Records, Wanted Man, Fugitive, Masquerade, Beautiful Losers, Naughty but Nice, Swinging Pig and even Not Guilty.

He showed no emotion as Judge Timothy Pontius told him that it was plain that his "large-scale criminal enterprise" had "reaped very considerable financial rewards from the manufacture, importation and sale of illicit CDs.

"It seems clear beyond any doubt that this enterprise is by far the largest and therefore the most serious of its particular kind to come before the courts.

"The gravity of your involvement lies first of all in its overall scale," he continued.

"Very large numbers of illicit CDs were produced and sold over the years with significant potential loss, not only to recording companies but also to performers and composers who make a considerable part of their living from the percentage paid to them upon the sale of authorised recordings."

Bill Floyd, Sony's security adviser, said: "He is by far and away the biggest bootlegger the world has ever seen. Many artists will breathe more easily now he is behind bars."

He will have to serve an additional five years if assets of £1,830,000 are not paid by the end of March next year.