Sunday 25 August 2019

Gardaí smash pirate TV scam that cost operators up to €20m a year


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Ralph Riegel

Gardaí have dismantled a suspected pirate TV operation which is feared to have cost legitimate operators more than €20m annually.

The Garda Economic Crime Investigation Unit (ECIU) confirmed it had conducted a number of targeted operations across Cork and seized a significant quantity of electronic equipment.

Gardaí were targeting the use of unlicensed 'set-top' boxes which allowed people to access prime TV stations.

The raids followed a lengthy intelligence operation which was focused on Cork but which also involved other counties nationwide.

Further raids are now expected.

The cost of the suspected fraud is potentially put at €20m per annum.

Gardaí fear that it could extend to 20,000 people using such unlicensed 'set-top' boxes nationwide.

"The searches were carried out by gardaí from the Cork City division, supported by local detectives, the local Computer Crime Investigation Unit, Cork City and representatives from Virgin Media, Sky TV and Nagra," a Garda spokesperson confirmed.

"A significant amount of electronic equipment and documentation of evidential value was seized."

Gardaí confirmed that no arrests were made during the operation.

It is understood a number of different properties were searched as part of the planned operation. The seized material will now be examined by ECIU officers and computer crime experts.

Gardaí will then submit a file on the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for determination of what further action, if any, will result.

The file is not expected to be finalised by gardaí until later this year.

Such pirate TV operations have become very lucrative over recent years.

This has been underpinned by soaring consumer demand for access to premium TV channels and content.

The suspected pirate TV operation allowed access to such content while allowing users to avoid paying the normal annual fees.

Irish Independent

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