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No jail for TV box seller after prosecutors win rare appeal against 'excessive' punishment

SINGAPORE — A director of a company selling Android TV boxes will not have to go to jail after all, after public prosecutors won an appeal against what they called the “excessive” punishment meted out in a landmark private prosecution case.

No jail for TV box seller after prosecutors win rare appeal against 'excessive' punishment

Synnex Trading director Jia Xiaofeng at the State Courts on Jan 12, 2018.

SINGAPORE — A director of a company selling Android TV boxes will not have to go to jail after all, after public prosecutors won an appeal against what they called the “excessive” punishment meted out in a landmark private prosecution case.

Jia Xiaofeng, the sole director of Synnex Trading which sold the illicit streaming devices, was in October last year sentenced to a jail term of 12 weeks and ordered to pay a fine of S$5,400, while his company was fined S$160,800.

The boxes provided unauthorised access to material such as English Premier League (EPL) matches.

But on Monday (April 6), the High Court set aside Jia’s jail sentence and instead ordered him to pay a fine of S$36,600 after the rare appeal by public prosecutors against the "excessive" punishment was successful. The prosecuting authorities more often mount appeals seeking a harsher punishment.

If Jia does not pay the fine, he would be jailed for four weeks and 20 days. The fine issued to his company remains unchanged.

The cases of Jia and Synnex marked the first in Singapore where retailers of set-top boxes were hauled to court.

The private prosecution was launched by Mr Neil Kevin Gane, managing director of a security and brand protection consultancy firm, called IPT Solutions.

IPT represented the interests of several outfits whose copyright had been infringed including SingNet, a subsidiary of Singtel, StarHub, the Football Association Premier League, which arranged the telecast of EPL matches, and various Fox channels.

‘RESPONSIBILITY’ TO ASSIST COURT IN SENTENCING

In submissions dated March 27, Deputy Public Prosecutors Christopher Ong, Vincent Ong and Tay Jingxi said that it is imperative for the AGC to assist the court in sentencing, which includes providing correct and accurate sentencing precedents for the court’s consideration.

“This responsibility undergirds a crucial aspect of the administration of criminal justice in Singapore — that all offenders are punished appropriately,” they said in their written submissions.

“It is in this context that the Public Prosecutor has taken the unusual but necessary step of filing the present appeal against the sentence of 12 weeks’ imprisonment imposed upon (Jia).”

They then set out that the sentencing submissions made by private prosecutors had relied on a previous decision of the State Courts that had been overruled, resulting in an excessive sentence.

The imprisonment term meted out in that case — Public Prosecutor versus Low Meng Guan — was set aside on appeal and substituted with a fine of S$10,000.

That case, resulting from a police raid on Mr Low’s People’s Park Complex shop in 2011, involved the use of material designed to illegally breach the copyright of items such as software for computer games.

Turning to the present case, the DPPs said: “The outcome of that appeal (Mr Low’s) was not raised by either prosecuting counsel or defence counsel in the court below.

“The learned (District Judge’s) reliance upon a decision that had been overturned on appeal was a clear error of law, resulting in a sentence that is manifestly excessive.”

The judge had acknowledged in her grounds for decision that she became aware of the overturning of the jail sentence on appeal only after Jia was sentenced to prison time. The District Judge was not named in the court documents.

The DPPs then, without stating an exact figure, submitted that a “high fine” would be the appropriate sentence.

“Such a fine should not only result in Jia disgorging his profits derived from his offences, but also penalise him for engaging in such conduct,” they added. “Most importantly, it should also deter him from committing such profit-motivated offences in future, by making it clear that ‘crime does not pay’.”

A RECAP OF THE CASE

The court previously heard that the Android TV boxes sold by Synnex came with pre-installed applications that are able to stream unauthorised television channels as well as other entertainment and sports content once a buyer activates a subscription.

A total of 104 of such TV boxes were discovered during a raid by the Singapore Police Force’s Intellectual Property Rights Branch at Synnex’s premises in Geylang on May 23, 2017.

Besides selling Android TV boxes, Jia would help buyers activate their subscription to the pre-installed applications in the device, or repair defective boxes.

He also supplied Android TV boxes to another retailer, Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz, and paid him a commission of between S$20 and S$25 for each device sold. The devices automatically stored copies of copyrighted content in their random access memory to speed up the loading of the content.

Abdul Nagib was the director of An-Nahl. He was ordered to pay a fine of S$1,200 in April, while the charges against his company were discharged amounting to an acquittal.

 

Related topics

AGC Android TV Synnex Trading

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