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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Crack down on US mod chip sellers
Wii console being sold in shop, AP
The Wii console has proved hugely popular in the US
US Customs has carried out raids in 16 states to clamp down on the sale of modification or "mod" chips.

In the largest operation of its kind to date US Customs officials raided more than 30 homes, businesses and shops.

When a mod chip is installed on a game consoles it helps circumvent copy protection systems to let owners play pirated games.

Mod chips have been made for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii, Xbox and Xbox 360 game consoles.

The raids followed a 12-month investigation by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) into who was importing the chips and selling them on. Typically the chips are made overseas before being shipped to dealers in the US or other nations.

'Illicit devices'

"Illicit devices like the ones targeted today are created with one purpose in mind, subverting copyright protections," said Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for ICE in a statement.

"These crimes cost legitimate businesses billions of dollars annually and facilitate multiple other layers of criminality, such as smuggling, software piracy and money laundering," said Ms Myers.

Mod chips are also used by gamers to add functionality to their consoles or to back-up games. However, often this means breaking strict copyright laws.

Raids were carried out across many US states including California, Florida, Hawaii and New York. No details of who was arrested have been released.

Mod chips for the Nintendo Wii seem to be growing in popularity. ICE said it had helped Nintendo seize more than 61,000 Wii mod chips since April 2007.

According to figures released by ICE, counterfeiting and piracy costs the US up to $250bn (125bn) every year.

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