Police Dramatize ‘$445 Million’ Pirate Movie Site Raid

Police say they have raided the "operational headquarters" of a massive movie streaming organization which cost the entertainment industry a mind-boggling $330m euros ($445m) after a year online, something not even Megaupload achieved. During the raid Italian police seized lots of "new generation" computer equipment and drove a suspect away under flashing lights, little wonder they chose to release a video of their achievements.

Following the raids on Megaupload in January 2012, some pretty big figures were thrown around in respect of the alleged damages the site had caused copyright holders.

The general consensus of those rallying against the site was that Megaupload, a site that accounted for around 4% of all Internet traffic and dominated the online storage space, cost Hollywood around $500 million during its many years of operation.

This was the big one, the U.S. Government said, the world’s most notorious file-hosting site. But unknown to them in the depths of Europe a formidable new online piracy force was waiting to be unleashed.

According to the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), a department under Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance tasked with dealing with financial crime, the damage caused to the movie industry since the portal’s launch in 2012 has been enormous.

By offering Hollywood blockbusters and first-run movies illegally, in just over 12 months the operation netted more than 240 million visits resulting in 80 million unauthorized movie viewings. According to Italy’s leading copyright protection group SIAE, the losses were incredible.

“The damage, attributable to the non-collection for the film sector, according to estimates by the SIAE, amounted to about 330 million euros [$445m], with negative consequences on employment, huge losses for the treasury and inevitable repercussions on the country’s health,” the Guardia di Finanza said.

Yesterday, the GdF ran out of patience and raided the “operational headquarters” of the organization behind this piracy behemoth, taking their cameras along for the ride. Upon viewing the footage it doesn’t take long for the gloss to come off both the headlines and the wild claims of losses.

While the video (complete with flashing lights while the supposed pirate kingpin appears to be spirited back to GdF headquarters) is particularly poor, the claims of seizures of substantial quantities of “new generation computer equipment” aren’t backed up by the content either.

But always of most concern is when sites apparently as large as these are raided but not named by the authorities. We did some digging around and armed with the information that the site’s domains were ordered to be seized, we spoke with Marco d’Itri who runs Osservatorio Censura, a site dedicated to reporting on Italian web censorship, to try and find out some names.

“It has to be Casacinemas.com,” d’Itri told TorrentFreak.

Casacinemas is indeed a movie streaming portal and the pieces all fitted together. The operation against the site (which was indeed founded in 2012) took place in Verona and the only domain seizure order coming out of Verona is for Casacinemas. GdF revealed that the site’s admin was from Moldova, and that’s where Casacinemas was hosted.

So now to the wild claims of losses – do they hold water? Frankly – no.

Casacinemas was fairly popular in Italy, currently ranked 574th most popular site in the region by Alexa, but no way was it pulling in the claimed number of visits. Making the figures even more ridiculous is that around 86% of the site’s visitors were from Italy. This means that if the police figures are to be believed, every man, woman and child in Italy separately watched at least one movie on the site in the last 12 months.

Finally, another reason for not naming the site. Despite apparently getting their man and seizing Casacinemas.com, the site remains up at Casacinemas.in, ready to cost another half a billion dollars by this time next year.

“Investigations are continuing and, at the moment, we can not rule out further developments,” GdF conclude.

Enjoy the video.

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