On 1 October 2014, a Cyber Piracy Investigator in the Broadcast Risk Division of MultiChoice found an imported Android set-top box listed on the website of AVSupply.
Called the “DroidTv Box MXiii”, the online advertisement stated that media-streaming add-ons for XBMC came bundled with the device.
After discovering the box online, the investigator called the number given in the advertisement and arranged to buy the box for its listed price of R1,500.
He bought the DroidTv Box MXiii on 8 October 2014.
This is according to the draft charge sheet and sentence agreement of the case the State subsequently brought against AVSupply and its directors following the MultiChoice investigation.
The investigator told the court that the box was pre-loaded with the XBMC media player application, Netflix, Hulu+, Plex, Facebook, and Twitter.
He also found that the box came pre-installed with the following add-ons for XBMC: Fusion, Mashup, and Xunity Respository.
On 15 October 2014, police raided AVSupply’s premises and seized a number of media boxes and other equipment.
Hearings in the Bellville Commercial Crimes Court
At this point, MultiChoice’s investigator handed the matter to the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft (SAFACT) and the police.
Jacque Hilbert, one of the directors of AVSupply, told MyBroadband he had to appear in court four times in 2015 before he could enter a “not guilty” plea.
Before his first court appearance, he was offered a deal: plead guilty and only he gets a criminal record. His wife, who is also a director of AVSupply, would get to walk away free.
Hilbert said the prosecutor told him the MultiChoice investigator had called almost daily for an update on the case.
The case was postponed so the Hilberts could finalise their legal representation, and postponed again after they declined a second plea deal in which AVSupply would be fined while neither Jacque nor Tracy Hilbert would receive a criminal record.
It was postponed a third time for the charge sheet to be finalised.
On 2 December 2015, AVSupply and the Hilberts pleaded “not guilty”. The court date was set for 25 February 2016.
Hilbert said that before the court date they realised the company they were using for legal services, Legal Advice Office, had defrauded them.
The disbarred attorney who ran the Legal Advice Office, Hugh Pollard, is reportedly facing fraud charges.
Hilbert said the Legal Advice Office had previously procured the services of a lawyer on its “panel” from Malan Lourens Viljoen Attorneys.
The lawyer said he could no longer represent the Hilberts as he had not been paid for his services.
With no attorney to represent them, Hilbert said the prosecutor advised them to ask for legal aid.
Since they had an income, however, they were told they did not qualify for legal aid. Hilbert said the lawyer at the legal aid office advised him to take the plea deal as it was the quickest way to resolve the matter.
On 31 March 2016, Jacque Hilbert appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crimes Court to sign the plea agreement, and pleaded guilty on behalf of AVSupply.
AVSupply did not have to shut down, nor were Hilbert and his wife held criminally liable as directors of the company.