The Premier League, and national police in Spain, Denmark and Europol worked together in an international anti-piracy operation resulting in five arrests and uncovering a complex, international illegal IPTV business.
The Spanish national police has publicly announced the success of the largest investigation to-date into a global illegal IPTV streaming business. In an operation led by the Spanish national police in collaboration with police forces in the UK, Denmark, Europol, the Premier League and Irdeto, 14 locations were raided. As a result of the raids, five people have been arrested for crimes of belonging to a criminal organisation, intellectual property theft, fraud and money laundering.
Three of the members arrested lived in luxury housing developments in Spain’s southern region of Costa del Sol and owned several high-range cars. The profits of the illegal operation allowed members to live the high life – police estimate the group made €8 million since 2013.
The investigation uncovered a complex international technological infrastructure underpinning the illegal IPTV business, which comprised of 11 server farms distributed all over the world, some of them with more than 44 servers. The action has resulted in the shutdown of an illegal IPTV streaming business which allowed access to more than 800 television channels to subscribers in more than 30 countries, for subscriptions starting at €40 per month. The business was also found to have several associated profiles on social networks, promoting services to obtain more customers.
The investigation began in late 2015, initiated by the Premier League as part of a global effort to combat illegal online redistribution of its content. The focus was on a website based in Malaga, offering IPTV subscriptions with access to a multitude of international pay TV channels. It was subsequently revealed that the website was run by a specialised international criminal organisation with a presence in Spain, Denmark, United Kingdom, Latvia, the Netherlands and Cyprus.
“The success of this investigation is a further example of the Premier League’s hugely impactful global anti-piracy programme. We are achieving unprecedented success in the protection of our media rights, with ground-breaking Court orders blocking illegal streams and numerous actions against suppliers of illegal Premier League content resulting in significant prison sentences,” said Premier League Director of Legal Services, Kevin Plumb.
“The support of the authorities is crucial in our anti-piracy efforts and we are very grateful to all the agencies that played a pivotal role in this operation, particularly the Spanish National Police for leading this collaborative investigation. We will continue to invest in cutting-edge technology and work with law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders across the world to protect our rights.”
The illegal operation was found to have changed multiple servers periodically and gradually, creating new web pages in an attempt to go undetected by law enforcement.
In order to give an appearance of legality to the illicit business and to launder the profits, they created companies with legal activity and with a corporate purpose related to the provision of telecommunications services, internet and hardware. On the one hand, they had the technical and technological infrastructure necessary to be able to carry out their licit business (fibre operators) and also the illicit business (illegal IPTV subscriptions) and, on the other hand, the fact that they were authorized fibre operators served as an argument for customers to believe that they were also authorised for the distribution of foreign channels
During its operation, the business is estimated to have made roughly eight million euros, with those arrested in Spain residing in luxury residences on the Malaga coast. As part of the operation, police seized 12 high-end vehicles, real estate and blocked bank accounts. Of the five people arrested, three were arrested in Spain, detained and sent to prison following appearances in court.
“The scale of this investigation is testament to the seriousness of piracy as a crime and the impact it can have on the industry,” said Mark Mulready, Vice President – Cybersecurity Services, Irdeto.
“We will continue to support our customers, partners and law enforcement agencies to identify large-scale cross-border pirate networks and help combat piracy, resulting in the shutdown of these illegal businesses and hopefully directing consumers to legitimate and safe content sources.”