In recent years, many people have canceled their expensive cable subscriptions, opting to use cheaper Internet TV instead.
Those who choose the cheapest plans often end up at pirate services. These may work flawlessly for years, until they suddenly don’t.
Fiscal Police Raid IPTV Service
Last May, Dutch fiscal police (FIOD) landed a major success in the battle against this type of piracy by shutting down one of Europe’s largest IPTV operations. This wasn’t just a random target either. The operation presumably offered its services to countless smaller IPTV sellers, which served over a million subscribers.
Little detail was released about the main defendants but authorities report that four people were arrested. The available information also suggested that GLOBE Datacenter was a key target and that more than 1,200 servers were taken offline.
The authorities didn’t mention any specific IPTV services but the operation was massive. Local anti-piracy group BREIN reported that TVs in hundreds of thousands of homes went dark due to the raids. Europol, which also assisted in the operation, said that the service had over a million users across Europe.
Faced with an operation of this size, law enforcement initially failed to see that the websites of innocent companies were also taken down in the process. The problem was addressed after TorrentFreak requested clarification.
The prosecution of those behind the illegal IPTV operation is just getting started. This week, there was a ‘pro forma’ hearing in the case against defendant Hicham O. The 30-year-old is a manager and shareholder of Globe Datacenter and Satellite Wholesale BV in Almere, two companies that were targeted in the raids.
The defendant is seen as a key player in the criminal IPTV operation and stands accused of laundering more than 17.5 million euros. He was arrested last May and remains in custody. AD reports that, according to tapped conversations, Hicham claimed to generate half a million euros in revenue per month, of which 200,000 euros was pure profit.
During the pro forma hearing, the defendant requested to be released pending trial, fearing that his family could lose their home as they no longer have an income. He cited mental struggles as well.
The request was denied, according to local media, as the court sees Hicham O. as a flight risk and potential recidivist.
The prosecutor mentioned that the defendant, who has Dutch and Moroccan nationality, has plans to flee to Morocco. Tapped conversations with family and fellow suspects revealed that he would like to relaunch the IPTV business to start making money again.
The public prosecutor further said that pirate IPTV subscriptions have become very common in recent years. In some parts of society, people believe that you’re crazy if you pay for a legitimate streaming subscription.
“Why would you pay hundreds of euros a month for streaming services if you can watch it all for ten euros a month?” the prosecutor questioned, adding that streaming platforms such as Viaplay are in financial trouble as a result of this attitude.
“What you see happening is that a company like Viaplay is in financial trouble because part of society is willing to take a walk with the property rights of these companies,” the prosecutor added.
How the prosecutor knows that Viaplay’s financial troubles are caused by IPTV services isn’t clear, but the tone is set.
The full trial against Hicham O. is currently scheduled to take place sometime next year. There are several other defendants as well, but these cases will be handled separately on different dates.