The Premier League has helped international police shut down an illegal subscription streaming service as a result of the world’s largest anti-piracy investigation to date.
English soccer’s top club competition launched the probe in 2015 as part of a global effort to combat the redistribution of its content, resulting in multiple arrests.
The investigation, which was led by the Spanish National Police, uncovered a complex international technological infrastructure underpinning an illegal IPTV business.
Overall, 14 locations were raided in Spain, Denmark and the UK, following inquiries into a website based in Malaga, which offered IPTV subscriptions with access to a multitude of international pay-TV channels.
In total, five arrests were made in relation to crimes including intellectual property theft, fraud and money laundering. Three people arrested in Spain have been sent to prison following appearances in court.
Kevin Plumb, the Premier League’s director of legal services, said: “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.
“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 investigation was carried out in collaboration with forces in the UK and Denmark, and also included efforts from Europol, the European law enforcement agency, and digital security service Irdeto.
Police raids uncovered 11 server farms distributed all over the world, some of them with more than 44 servers. As a result, authorities have shut down an illegal IPTV streaming business, which allowed access to more than 800 television channels to subscribers in more than 30 countries, available over monthly subscriptions starting at €40 (US$45.20).
The business was also found to have several associated profiles on social networks, which were used to promote its streaming services.
According to Irdeto, inquiries revealed that the website was run by a specialised international criminal organisation with a presence in Spain, Denmark, the UK, Latvia, the Netherlands and Cyprus.
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.
"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." - Kevin Plumb, Premier League director of legal services
The illicit business was also combined with companies created to conduct lawful activity related to the provision of telecommunications services, internet and hardware, to hide profits and avoid detection.
During its operation, the business is estimated to have made roughly €8 million (US$9 million), with those arrested in Spain residing in luxury residences on the Malaga coast. As part of the operation, police also seized 12 ‘high-end’ vehicles, real estate and blocked bank accounts.
Mark Mulready, Iredeto’s vice president for cybersecurity services, said: “The scale of this investigation is testament to the seriousness of piracy as a crime and the impact it can have on the industry.
“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.”
The news marks the latest boost in the Premier League’s fight against piracy after it announced last week that three men who operated an illegal streaming organisation had been jailed for a total of 17 years for conspiracy to defraud.