The Directorate for the Prosecution of Electronic Crime in Athens, Greece, is reporting an apparently successful operation against an organization that until recently serviced customers in five regions of the country. A series of raids last Friday are said to have “dismantled” the group, details of which are now emerging.
Nine ‘Key members’ Arrested
The Directorate for the Prosecution of Electronic Crime says a coordinated operation carried out last Friday targeted a “criminal operation” whose members were “systematically active in the illegal retransmission of subscription television services.” In the areas of Attica, Ilia, Thessaloniki, Kozani and Crete, nine alleged key members of the group were arrested, with another three key members reportedly still on file.
Together they face charges relating to the formation, management, and membership of a criminal organization, violations of intellectual property law, offenses relating to subscription services, and weapons offenses after pepper spray and a knife were confiscated by police.
Other items seized during the raids include 52,915 euros in cash, 41 ‘online receivers’ (nature unspecified), 24 mobile phones, 46 bank cards, 22 hard disks, 11 computers, 6 SIM cards, 5 tablet devices, 3 USB flash drives, customer lists, and a wireless router.
The Organization’s Structure
Information provided by the Directorate indicates that two key members of the group were responsible for maintaining the network infrastructure from where illicit TV streams were retransmitted to subscribers of the service.
Other core members of the group acted as resellers to their own sets of customers, who purchased pre-configured set-top boxes using various mechanisms including cash, bank transfers, online money transfers, and cryptocurrency transactions.
Police say the resellers were able to check the status of each customer to determine if they had “fulfilled their financial obligations, if their subscription period had expired, as well as activate or deactivate the connection of each user.”
Known in IPTV circles as a ‘reseller panel’ this a type of software that allows resellers to manage their own customers via an online interface. In return for effectively becoming an IPTV provider’s sales and customer support agent, the business is structured so that resellers are able to make a profit on each ‘credit’ (usually a month’s subscription) bought and sold. In this case, police say the resellers received a 40% cut.
How Much Was Made?
When the authorities announce seizures of drugs or counterfeit goods, early value estimates are often calculated using methods more likely to have a bigger impact in the media.
Drug hauls, for example, aren’t valued using the ‘wholesale’ price available for 100kgs, but at the rate they would’ve been sold at for the smallest possible quantity at ‘retail’, commonly known as street value. Counterfeit watches purchased for a few dollars each at ‘retail’ and worth much less in bulk, are reported at the price a jeweler charges for an original timepiece.
With the above in mind, trying to decipher figures provided by the authorities following IPTV busts is rarely straightforward. In this case, however, Greek police take a different approach.
Financial Benefit to Subscribers
By taking the estimated number of subscribers to the service (2,000 minimum) and calculating the ‘financial benefit’ they obtained (presumably by buying a pirate subscription over an official package), the police arrive at a financial benefit for subscribers valued at 420,000 euros.
This suggests that each customer avoided paying/financially benefited to the tune of 210 euros each. The loss to the subscription TV companies, meanwhile, is measured at 2,240,000 euros, over five times the amount saved by the subscribers and equivalent to 1,120 euros in losses for every single one.
Taking that at face value, the difference is significant and may be important for more than 40 people reported by the police for watching illegal streams.
“The case file also includes 43 customers of the organization, for illegal viewing of subscription services,” police report.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.