Investigators in several European countries have taken action against the illegal streaming of pay-TV broadcasts, taking down more than 200 servers and making one arrest, according to the European judicial authority, Eurojust.
Authorities in Italy, Bulgaria, Germany, France and the Netherlands, targeted an organised crime group group illegally re-broadcasting series, films and sports competitions offered by companies such as Sky Italia, Mediaset Premium and Netflix.
The technically savvy criminals set up several re-transmission stations with special servers to disable the encryption of the original programmes and generate the illegal IPTV signal in violation of intellectual property law. The criminals then sold their own subscriptions via Facebook, among other means. Users paid 10 or 12 euros per month for a complete subscription with sports and films, a fraction of the official price.
Due to the illegal circulation of paid television and pay-per-view content, companies lost some 6.5 million euros in revenue, with the proceeds being laundered by the criminal gangs overseas.
Eurojust said one person was arrested and 22 suspects of different nationalities were identified during an operation on Wednesday. In addition, 150 PayPal accounts belonging to the criminal organisation’s members were frozen. The suspects are accused of large-scale fraud, cyber crime and money laundering.
In total, more than 200 servers were taken offline as a result of the investigation in the Netherlands, Germany and France.
During the day of the operation, servers, payment instruments and registration sheets were seized. The taking down of the servers resulted in customers losing their signal; in Italy, the largest target market for the criminal gang, five million users were affected, according to Italian media.
The investigation began in Italy in 2017 and when the cross-border dimension of the organisation was discovered, Eurojust was called in to coordinate the investigations being carried out by the national authorities involved.