NBC Burbank Producer Mike Mosher and Singapore-based freelance producer Mike Barrett link up with the Motion Picture Association of America and Operation Double Trouble to follow Lucky and Flo as the canines take a bite out of organized crime.
Piracy is the biggest threat to the U.S. motion picture industry. In 2005 losses estimated at $6.1 billion dollars were attributed to piracy. Eighty percent of the losses are a result of piracy overseas. Now the music and film industries are teaming up with international police in their investigations into the criminal gangs involved in piracy.
An unlikely pair of canine detectives have been sent to Malaysia, one fo the world’s top illegal movie producers and exporters and one of the 36 countries on a U.S. watch list of serious copyright violators. In the past month these search dogs have led five raids and seized 1.5 million pirated discs worth an estimated $3.7 million. WATCH VIDEO
Malaysia’s most famous dogs, two brown Labradors named Lucky and Flo, have sniffed out another huge consignment of illegal DVDs, this time in the southern Malaysia city of Johor Bahru.
In a series of raids in one small shopping mall, the two dogs sniffed out more than 100,000 pirated DVDs hidden away in locked shops in the Holiday Plaza mall.
The seized DVDs were worth nearly US$300,000. These are the only two sniffer dogs in the world that are trained to detect optical discs. They are extremely cost-effective and faster at detecting the contraband than enforcement officers.
We met up with Lucky and Flo just before their arrival at Holiday Plaza, their first stop was the underground car park where investigators believed discs were being stored in the trunks of cars parked there. It was also an opportunity to let the dogs have a run after a four hour drive. Lucky and Flo worked around the cars, detecting optical disc chemicals in some of the trunks, and those cars were guarded by Ministry officials until their owners returned.
After a quick run by the cars, Lucky and Flo were taken into the mall and the shops that had been targeted by the authorities.
The dogs quickly pulled an audience and many in the crowd were also on mobile phones, some presumably warning pirate manufacturers that the dogs were in town.
Most of the shops on the list were locked and had their windows blocked out, but the dogs quickly settled into their routine moving along the shop fronts and sniffing through the cracks at doorways. The relationship between the dogs and their handler Dave Mayberry is such that he can tell when they have picked up a scent. To the casual observer the dogs sometimes sit down or their tail stops wagging but for Dave there are even more subtle signals that the dogs have detected something. He then determines if a shop warrants a closer inspection.
In Malaysia, a closer inspection means bolt cutters and a crowbar. No police are required nor is permission from the shop owner; the authorities simply break open the door to confirm the presence of pirated discs.
And shop after shop after shop identified by Flo and Lucky turned out to be pirate outlets.
Most contained thousands of DVDs from the latest Hollywood blockbusters, popular television series through to hardcore pornography.
Two men were arrested in one shop. They refused to open the door, bolt cutters were used and the authorities handcuffed the men after finding the shop full of fake DVDs.
Once word was out that the dogs were in action, the raids had to keep moving quickly to have maximum impact.
While very popular, Lucky and Flo are not exactly showered with affection while in Malaysia. Being a Muslim country, many Malaysians believe a dog is not a clean animal and do not want to come into contact with one, so the only overt praise and reward they get is from their handlers.
After the shop raids, Lucky and Flo moved to an office tower where the fake DVDs are apparently produced. Again, they detected chemical scents and doors were opened to reveal bigger and more sophisticated operations. Discs, labeling machines, artwork -- all essential to the running of the move piracy racket -- were discovered. This was a bigger operation than the retail outlets, probably one of the suppliers, and busts of this sort of operation hurt the pirates.
During this raid, about 10 young men arrived in the lift foyer area. They didn’t say anything but just watched as the authorities collected discs and equipment. However, its believed they were employed by the pirates and they were there to intimidate the people carrying out the raid. Everything was removed without any trouble, but authorities believe the success of Lucky and Flo has resulted in the piracy syndicates putting a price on the dogs’ heads. (That's an actual poster to the right.)
Fahmi Bin Kasim, the head of enforcement with the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, believes there’s a 50,000 Ringgit price on each dog (US$14,500.00), up from about US$3,000 when the dogs first arrived and a sure sign of their success.
The dogs are now kept in a secure environment, travel in unmarked vans and because of the attention being paid to them during this raid, a police escort was requested for the trip back to Kuala Lumpur.
In just over a month, Lucky and Flo carried out six successful raids in stores and shopping complexes, and the Malaysian Government wants their stay extended.