Police Confirm FBI-Assisted Takedown of Piracy Release Group EVO

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Portugal's Polícia Judiciária and cybercrime unit UNC3T have confirmed responsibility for the arrest of the alleged leader of piracy release group EVO. The enforcement action followed a months-long investigation triggered by a complaint from Amazon, Disney, Netflix and other key movie industry players. The FBI assisted by taking down the group's US-based servers.

policia-juciadariaEVO, short for EVOLUTiON, was a high-profile P2P group whose activities stood out in recent years.

The group released a steady stream of new movie and TV show titles and gained pirates’ admiration by leaking many screeners way ahead of their official premieres.

For several years in a row, EVO opened the “screener season” by releasing leaked copies of upcoming films. This included Oscar contenders, but also several Netflix titles that originated from festival screenings.

EVO was also the first to release an early Blu-Ray copy of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ last year, and a high-quality copy of the blockbuster “Dune” in 2021, ahead of its official U.S. premiere.

Like many other groups, EVO posted new releases on a regular schedule but that came to an abrupt halt last November when the group suddenly went quiet. While no explanation was given at the time, many pirates feared that the group had been busted.

National Criminal Investigation Police Take Credit

A few weeks ago TorrentFreak was able to confirm that this was indeed the case. Anti-piracy coalition ACE informed us that it had been working with Portuguese authorities to shut the group down and arrest its alleged leader.

This week Portual’s Polícia Judiciária publicly confirmed that enforcement action Operation “EVO 1.2” had been carried out through UNC3T, the national cybercrime unit.

The criminal investigation into EVO started early last year, following a complaint from Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures, Universal City Studios, Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros., Netflix, and Amazon. These are all members of the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and related anti-piracy coalition ACE.

Polícia Judiciária reports that EVO’s movie and TV show leaks caused significant losses, exceeding €1,000,000. The group operated internationally, but its home base was in Portugal.

FBI Involvement

After documenting how the group operated, several home searches were carried out in Portugal. The authorities also located EVO’s servers in the United States. These were taken down with help from the FBI, Portugeuse police confirm.

“In Portugal, house searches were carried out and various computer equipment was seized. Three defendants were held under suspicion of belonging to the criminal group.

“In collaboration with the FBI, the inactivation of the criminal group’s servers was also achieved,” Polícia Judiciária adds.

The authorities used these initial investigations to pinpoint the alleged leader of EVO, who was arrested and had his house searched in Portugal. This presumably took place last fall, around the time when the group stopped releasing new content.

Various Criminal Charges

According to the press release, the criminal charges include unauthorized access to the victims’ servers, computer fraud, money laundering, tax fraud, copyright infringement, and taking part in a criminal organization.

The first interrogation of the main suspect was concluded earlier and EVO’s alleged leader was subjected to restrictive measures. Among other things, he is not allowed to communicate with the other defendants or use any computer equipment.

The status of the other three defendants is unclear and details on the progress of the prosecution are scarce. TorrentFreak contacted the authorities to request further information, but we have yet to hear back.

When EVO disappeared in 2022, another prominent release group called iFT also went quiet. Whether this is connected to the EVO prosecution remains unknown for now.

Finally, it is worth noting that for the first time in decades, perhaps ever, no awards screeners leaked online before the most recent Oscars. Given EVO’s prominent role in these leaks in recent years, that’s likely no coincidence.


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