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Illegal chips for games consoles on sale in shops

Computer chips containing up to €5,000 worth of illegally copied games are being sold openly in shops around the country for as little as €50, it has emerged.

The latest development in counterfeiting is costing games giants like Nintendo fortunes in lost revenue, and now the chips, with up to 100 computer games on them, are being sold openly by rogue traders around Ireland.

The games sell legitimately for between €30 and €50.

The 'R4' chip appeared in Japan four years ago with the capacity to carry large numbers of the hand-held Nintendo DS (dual screen) games. Since then, its manufacture has switched to China.

Despite lawsuits by the games giant, the R4 chip has spread around the world and is widely available on the internet and from black market dealers around the world.

Sales of the chips with the illegally copied games were filmed by actors wearing concealed cameras for a new documentary series on TV3 about Ireland's thriving black economy.

Blackmarket Ireland, which begins tomorrow night, shows illegal trading of a variety of goods at markets around the country and also on Dublin's Moore Street. It shows the illegal selling of smuggled cigarettes, DVDs and music CDs from a market on the outskirts of Dublin by men with Armagh or Louth accents.

Gardai say that a great deal of the counterfeiting and smuggling is still located in this general area where the first video-counterfeiting operations began in Ireland more than two decades ago.

Music industry figures have said that film and music-counterfeiting operations are one of the main factors in the closure of record shops and the decline of Irish jobs in the music and film sectors.

A wide variety of market and street traders were filmed selling smuggled cigarettes, which the tobacco industry reckons to account for a quarter of all Irish cigarette sales.

Ireland has the highest rates of tobacco tax but has not upgraded laws on smuggling.

Michael O'Shea, from the Irish Heart Foundation, said that Ireland needed to impose much higher penalties on tobacco smugglers. No one has been imprisoned for tobacco smuggling here and the average fine for possession of container-sized loads of cigarettes is around €500.

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Cigarette smuggling in Ireland is controlled by major criminal/terrorist groups including the dissident republicans based in south Armagh.

According to garda sources, the counterfeiting and smuggling operations in the area are booming because of difficulties encountered by the PSNI as a result of the threat of action by dissident republicans, who continue to grow in strength due in large part, gardai say, to the financial gains from crime.

Blackmarket Ireland filmed two shop owners, one Irish and the other African, selling the R4 chips loaded with Nintendo games to an undercover actor in central Dublin.

Customs officers also show intercepted counterfeit goods ranging from clothes to anabolic steroids.

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