Alleged ‘Rings’ pirate flushed out
By SCOTT MacLEOD
The New Zealand Herald – June 27, 2000
A one-month probe into claims of movie piracy on the set of the mega-trilogy Lord of the Rings has ended with the arrest of an Auckland crew member.
The 36-year-old has been charged with making a VHS copy of film footage, money-laundering, fraudulently dealing with a film and theft as a servant of two video cassettes.
The company producing the fantasy trilogy says it has boosted its security since the allegations surfaced. Police spokeswoman Kaye Calder said yesterday that an average of three Wellington police officers worked fulltime for a month before the man was arrested in Auckland on Saturday evening.
She refused to say how much money was alleged to have been laundered, and papers filed in the Auckland District Court yesterday during the man’s first appearance gave scant details.
But a source close to the investigation told the Herald there were “obviously considerable sums” to be made from pirated copies of the film, which will have its first instalment released in December next year.
The source said no footage was sent overseas before the man was arrested.
Court papers alleged the man stole video cassettes from an employer called Newline Productions Ltd. But a spokesman for Newline Cinema, Steve Elzer, said from Los Angeles that the man was not a direct employee.
He said Newline had been working closely with the New Zealand police and had taken steps to ensure no footage would be pirated in future.
The best-known person spying on the production, who goes by the name Tehanu, said on a Website that there were growing rumours of props and other items being stolen from the sets in New Zealand.
“It’s not a complete surprise that someone working in the production has been arrested.”
The man was remanded without plea for two weeks when he appeared in court. He was given interim name suppression.