Spanish police have dismantled Europe’s largest-scale TV piracy racket in an operation involving a series of raids on properties and server farms across the continent, including Britain.
The probe was launched in 2015 when England’s Premier League football corporation reported a website in Malaga offering unlicensed subscription packages.
Spanish police led an investigation also involving British, Danish and Europol investigators that uncovered a highly sophisticated and far-reaching parallel network of TV subscriber packages spanning virtually all of Europe.
The investigation led to three arrests in Spain and two in Denmark.
Spanish police found that the website reported by the Premier League was only one of 20 sites directing customers to 10 different internet protocol television packages aimed at country-specific audiences.
Customer payments were made to a firm based in Gibraltar, behind which Spanish police found a web of companies and a criminal organisation with branches in Spain, Denmark, the UK, Latvia, the Netherlands and Cyprus.
The suspects used a network of 11 server farms to steal and relay transmissions from 800 TV channels, as well as offering a library of copyrighted audio-visual material and foreign radio stations for subscribers in 30 countries.
“The suspects’ strategy was to use a multitude of servers and change them periodically, gradually creating new web pages to form a network of apparently unrelated elements. They thus hoped to avoid police detection and continue to profit from the crime,” a source from Spain’s National Police force said.
Police say the suspects had accrued at least €8 million from their systematic and sophisticated copyright theft operation, some of which they had spent on fuelling a high-octane lifestyle on the Costa del Sol.
The three arrested suspects in Malaga lived in luxury homes, and police said they had impounded 12 top-of-the-range cars.
Investigators said that it had not been easy to identify the gang’s ill-gotten gains, however, as they had also created legal companies dedicated to telecoms, internet and IT hardware services.
They installed fibre-optic internet connections for clients and would also offer them subscription packages under a guise of apparent legality.