CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ Lotus Development Corp. and Novell Inc. said Thursday they are pressing criminal charges in Singapore against a couple accused of leading a major computer software piracy operation.

The companies were granted authority by the Singapore government to file charges on behalf of the country's attorney general, according to Terri Remillard, corporate counsel for Provo, Utah-based Novell.

The charges against Ong Seow Pheng and his wife, Tan Pui Fun, came after the couple were found guilty in a civil suit for trademark and copyright infringement, the companies said.

The two were accused of running a scheme to sell thousands of illegally copied software programs in Singapore, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and elsewhere.

After a ten month investigation, Singaporean authorities raided Ong's residence on Oct. 28, 1991, seizing two personal computers, a diskette duplicating machine and boxes of documents.

Novell and Lotus said they have succeeded in obtaining a court order freezing the couple's assets of about $900,000.

Experts say Singapore has one of the most serious software piracy problems in Asia, costing software companies millions of dollars each year.