LONDON—Two British men have been jailed for 15-month terms each for running what the judge in the case said was a "lucrative and seedy" operation selling adult DVDs.
Tehsin Panju, 49, of Brae Court, South Norwood, south east London, and Hitendra Patel, 47, of Malvern Gardens, Harrow, north west London, each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to publish obscene articles between August 30, 2007, and July 9, 2008, according to The Independent. Panju also admitted three money laundering counts.
The men's empire, as it is being called, was built up over six-years until the men had acquired so many DVDs that it took five lorries (i.e. trucks) to cart them all away, setting a precedent for the Metropolitan Police.
"This is to date the largest seizure of pornographic material the Met's Obscene Publications Squad has ever dealt with," said Natasha Tahta, the prosecuting attorney.
Panju and Patel allegedly ran a company called Direct Media, started by them in 2002, which provided mail order services, servicing a client database that reportedly contained "thousands of names," according to police.
Investigators also said they found £26,380 at the men's Shepherds Bush headquarters in west London, £41,000 in a safe deposit box and nearly £6,500 in a storage unit
In Britain, where there is no three-pronged Miller Test by which to assess whether material is obscene and therefore not protected by the First Amendment, which they also do not have, the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 is used to assess sexual contraband, which must be found to “deprave or corrupt” its audience in order to be obscene.
Though the current case was presented before a court and magistrate, there appears to be very little clarity about how many of the "hundreds of thousands" of video confiscated by police were actually obscene under the law.
The Independent reports, "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."
The defense contended that the number of "obscene" DVDs were no more than 1 percent of the total found. In the end, presiding judge Peter Fingret said he could not make a precise determination, but had no doubt the final number of illegal videos was significant.
"The scale of the operation, even on the basis of a small percentage, would necessarily involve a large number of obscene DVDs," Fingret said. "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," Fingret added.
With that, the judge rejected a defense motion for suspended sentences based upon probation report recommendations, and sent Panju and Patel immediately to jail with the explanation that because "efforts do need to be made by the courts to eliminate this sort of trading, immediate custody is the only possible outcome."