The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation

 

Spammers penalised


2 November 2009

Two more New Zealanders have admitted their part in a major international spamming operation and must pay substantial financial penalties.

Justice French (in a judgment dated 27 October 2009) in the High Court in Christchurch ordered Shane Atkinson of Christchurch to pay $100,000 and courier, Roland Smits, $50,000 for their roles in a Christchurch business that over four months in 2007 sent over two million unsolicited emails to New Zealand addresses marketing pharmaceutical products. In December 2008 Shane’s brother, Lance Atkinson, of Pelican Waters, Queensland, paid $100,000 plus costs of $7666 after admitting his involvement. Lance is also facing court action in the United States brought against him by the Federal Trade Commission.

The latest settlements mark the final stage of Operation Herbal King, an investigation conducted by the Department of Internal Affairs’ Anti-spam Compliance Unit. Within three months of the passing of the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act in 2007, the Department had shut down the New Zealand component of what was ranked as the largest pharmaceutical spamming operation in the history of the Internet.

The operation organised and paid affiliates around the world to send spam emails marketing Herbal King, Elite Herbal and Express Herbal branded pharmaceutical products. These were manufactured and shipped by Tulip Lab of India, through a business known as the Genbucks Affiliate Programme. This business was operated by Genbucks Ltd, a company incorporated in the Republic of Mauritius.

Internal Affairs Deputy Secretary Keith Manch said the Department worked with overseas agencies, particularly the USA’s Federal Trade Commission, to conclude the investigation.

“Operation Herbal King is a major success for the Department and its small Anti-Spam Compliance Unit,” Keith Manch said. “Following the passing of the UEM Act, we entered into international agreements to share information about spamming and pursue cross-border complaints.

“The FTC was able to provide technical information making it possible for our investigators to identify the defendants and obtain evidence of the offending.

“The Act stops New Zealand from becoming a spammer’s haven. Current estimates suggest that around 120 billion spam messages are sent every day. These emails clog up the Internet, disrupt email delivery, reduce business productivity, raise internet access fees, irritate recipients and erode people’s confidence in using email.”

Media contact:
Keith Manch, Deputy Secretary, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 495 9329; cell 021 227 6363
Trevor Henry, communications adviser, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 495 7211; cell 0275 843 679