Police Bust Admins of Italy’s Largest Torrent Site

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Colombo-BT, once the largest torrent site in Italy, was shut down in the summer of 2008. At the time no arrests were made, but following an extensive investigation Italian authorities have announced today that two admins and four associates have been reported for breaking copyright law.

After a tip-off from Italian anti-piracy outfit FPM, the police seized the servers of Colombo-BT nearly two years ago, leaving roughly 400,000 registered users homeless. The site was taken offline by the same prosecutor responsible for blocking The Pirate Bay a few months later.

At the time the authorities froze two bank accounts of people that were allegedly connected to the BitTorrent tracker. No arrests were made because the site administrators had carefully covered their tracks.

In the investigation that followed the authorities were again assisted by local anti-piracy outfit FPM. They followed the money trails left behind by donations of the site’s users as well as server payments, and eventually uncovered the identities of six suspects.

In total, it took the authorities more than a year to complete the investigation which was codenamed ‘Operation Colombo’. Of the six suspects two are believed to be administrators of the site and the other four, including one German citizen, are seen as accomplices.

The two alleged administrators had their computers and other hardware seized which led the police to three of the accomplices. The other accomplice was connected to the site’s domain name that was registered under a false name.

The investigation into the site’s servers further revealed that Colombo-BT was hosting 36,328 torrent files that were downloaded more than 580 million times. The six people involved are all suspected of crimes related to copyright infringement and face up to several years in prison.

Italy continues to crack down on BitTorrent-related websites. Last month the country’s Internet providers were ordered to block users’ access to The Pirate Bay. Yesterday, we reported that the operator of a proxy site that aimed to bypass this block had his hardware seized by the police.

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