You'll Need a Big Tank but Keep Cats and Babies Away from Them - What He Told Our Investigator; EXPOSED: THE DVD PIRATE WHO SELLS SHARKS ON THE SIDE AT Pounds 350 A TIME

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Byline: By RUSSELL FINDLAY and ROBERT POULLEY

MILLIONAIRE computer pirate Ian Sweeney's illegal empire rakes in fortunes selling fake software, DVDs and CDs.

Now he is branching out after a pounds 17 million counterfeit case against him was dropped by selling sharks for pounds 350 a time.

Sweeney, 32, offers Black Tip and White Tip sharks which grow to 6 ft.

They thrive in the waters of the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, East African coast and Hawaii.

But from a grimy industrial unit in Hillington, Glasgow, Sweeney assured our investigator they would be OK for a home aquarium.

He said: ``You will need a big tank for these but don't let your babies or cat near them.''

Sweeney has been at the centre of police investigations for more than 10 years. But he has led a charmed life since starting out as a street trader in Glasgow's Barras in the early 90s.

He is now one of Scotland's most successful sellers of counterfeit computer software, DVDs and CDs.

But he has avoided prison thanks to reluctant prosecutors, the help of a bent policeman and crafty lawyers.

Now, with his latest venture, he is moving into more dangerous waters.

Last week he offered a Sunday Mail investigator dangerous reef sharks.

Sweeney said: ``We'll be getting them in stock next week and you can have one as soon as they arrive.''

He added: `` The only other exotic thing we have in Glasgow is birds with bright lipstick.''

One veteran police officer said: ``This guy has been the subject of dozens of investigations. He's a real Mr Big at the Barras. The evidence against him is often overwhelming but not once has he been jailed.''

In early 1999, police raided his factory unit in a shopping arcade inthe centre of Glasgow. They seized thousands of copies of computer programmes that would have cost pounds 17 million to buy legally.

Sweeney held his hands up but eight weeks ago the ``watertight'' investigation was dropped.

His lawyer's masterstroke was to demand that every second of every disc should be re-examined and that the Legal Aid Board should pay for it.

A court insider said: ``There was no way the Legal Aid Board could justify it. The fiscal marked the case `no proceedings'.

``The fact that Sweeney had Legal Aid is questionable in the first place. …