A one-month investigation into claims of movie piracy on the set of the mega-trilogy TLOTR has ended with the arrest of an Auckland man. 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 Ak on Sat night. She refused to say how much money was alleged to have been laundered, and papers filed in Ak District Court yesterday during the man’s first appearance gave scant details. But a source close to the investigation said there were ‘obviously considerable sums’ to be made from pirated copies of the film, which will have its first instalment released in Dec 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. But a spokesman for Newline Cinema, Steve Elzer, said from Los Angeles that the man was not a direct employee. Newline had been working closely with N Z police and had taken steps to ensure no footage would be pirated in future, he said. The man was remanded without plea for two weeks and was told to stay with his mother in Ak under a curfew. He was given name suppression til his next court appearance. The $260 million trilogy, based on three books by J R R T, is directed by NZer P J under strict secrecy, and has sparked a fanatical Internet following.

Thanks to Tiggy, gun typist, for that!