SHARE
COPY LINK

CRIME

Italian police help smash ‘world’s largest pirate TV streaming network’

Italian authorities said on Wednesday they have helped smash what they called "the world's largest" pirate streaming TV network, with five million customers in Italy alone.

Italian police help smash 'world's largest pirate TV streaming network'
An illegal streaming network allowed subscribers to view pirated content. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

Italian police stormed various locations while police in Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands also carried out raids coordinated by the EU's judicial cooperation agency Eurojust.

Police arrested at least 23 suspects as part of the ongoing operation against Xtream Codes, an alleged illegal pirating operation which Eurojust said caused damages worth some €6.5 million to the market.

Italian financial police said the operation had “deactivated the largest international pirate pay TV streaming network”.

For €12, far below normal prices, subscribers to the cut-price pirate streams could access all content from such giants as Sky Italy, Netflix and Mediaset.

“The damage caused to the broadcast companies, the private sector and public institutions so far is immense,” Filippo Spiezia, Italy's representative at Eurojust, told a press conference in The Hague. “The effects created by this illegal activity include unfair competition, financial loss… and thousands of jobs put in danger,” he said.

READ ALSO: Three new Italian original series are coming to Netflix

Germany, France and the Netherlands shut down around 200 computer servers as part of the operation. Law officers also seized hardware and shut down 800 internet sites used to re-broadcast channels.

The piracy operation was allegedly created by two Greek nationals, said Valeria Sico, deputy prosecutor at the public prosecutions office in Naples. Italian media reported that the network's mastermind had been arrested in Thessaloniki, Greece.

“We discovered a new system… which was much more evolved” than previous pirating attempts, Sico said in The Hague. The gang's platform decrypted copyright protected television images and re-broadcast them on the internet “on a wide scale”.

The scheme was first discovered when police raided a home in Naples, where they found that the criminals used a new system to infiltrate legitimate pay-per-view channels, Sico said. Once the signal was intercepted, it was re-routed through internet servers in the Netherlands and France and then sent to viewers' IP addresses.

Subscriptions were advertised on a Facebook page “telling people for a small price they could access all TV channels on demand”, Sico said.

Lodewijk van Zwieten, Dutch prosecutor specialising in cybercrime, said the Netherlands shut down 93 servers based in and around The Hague.

“This was a criminal group that used a sophisticated technical network that was really intended to resist actions by the authorities,” he said.

Those responsible for the piracy face up to three years in prison and a fine of €25,000.

 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

CRIME

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

Thirty years ago, the Sicilian mafia killed judge Giovanni Falcone with a bomb so powerful it was registered by experts monitoring volcanic tremors from Etna on the other side of the island.

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

The explosion, which ripped through a stretch of motorway near Palermo at 5.56 pm on May 23rd 1992, sent shockwaves across Italy, but also signalled the start of the mafia’s decline.

Anti-mafia prosecuting magistrate Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort were killed.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend.

At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

The three policemen on board were killed instantly.

READ ALSO: Could body found on Italy’s Mount Etna help solve long-standing mafia mystery?

Falcone, whose wife was sitting beside him, had slowed seconds before the explosion and the car slammed into a concrete guard rail.

His chauffeur, who was sitting in the back, survived, as did the three agents in the convoy’s rear.

A “garden of memory” now stands on the site of the attack. Oil from olive trees that grow there is used by Sicilian churches for anointing children during baptisms and confirmations.

‘Mafia massacre’

Falcone posed a real threat to the Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by “The Godfather” trilogy and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

It was he who gathered evidence from the first mafia informants for a groundbreaking trial in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

And at the time of the attack, he headed the justice ministry’s criminal affairs department in Rome and was working on a package of anti-mafia laws.

His murder woke the nation up. The Repubblica daily attacked the “mafia massacre” in its headline the next day, with a photo of the famous moustachioed magistrate, while thousands of people in Palermo protested in the streets.

All eyes turned to fellow anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, Falcone’s close friend and colleague, who gave an interview at the start of July saying the “extreme danger” he was in would not stop him doing his job.

On July 19th, just 57 days after his friend, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Amid national outrage, the state threw everything it had at hunting down Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore (Toto) Riina, who was involved in dozens of murders during a reign of terror lasting over 20 years.

Riina was arrested on January 15th, 1993, in a car in Palermo.

The truth?

The murders of Falcone and Borsellino “in the long term turned out to be a very bad business for Cosa Nostra, whose management team was decapitated by arrests and informants’ confessions”, Vincenzo Ceruso, author of several books on the mafia, told AFP.

Dozens of people have been convicted for their roles in the assassinations.

But Roberto di Bella, now an anti-mafia judge at the Catania juvenile court in Sicily, said that while “the majority of the perpetrators have been tried and convicted”, there remained “a part that is still not clear”.

Survivors insist there are still bits of the puzzle missing and point to Falcone’s belief there could be “possible points of convergence between the leaders of Cosa Nostra and the shadowy centres of power”.

“We still don’t have the truth about who really ordered the murder of Giovanni Falcone, because I don’t believe that ignorant people like Toto Riina could have organised an attack as sophisticated as that in Capaci,” Angelo Corbo, one of the surviving bodyguards, said in a documentary.

He said he was not alone in believing there were “men in suits and ties” among the mobsters.

However, an investigation into possible “hidden orchestrators” of the Capaci attack was thrown out in 2013.

“There is no evidence of the existence of external backers. There is no doubt that these are mafia acts,” author Ceruso said.

SHOW COMMENTS