Spanish Police Arrest Seven in Pirate Sports Streaming Crackdown

Police in Spain say they have arrested seven people following a crackdown on illegal sports streaming. Raids took place in several locations around the country, targeting an operation that's said to generate around 1.4 million euros. Seven websites have been blocked and three bank accounts frozen. Police say that further arrests are not being ruled out.

While most large broadcasters around the world now offer comprehensive sports packages to their customers, subscriptions are often quite expensive.

This has led to the proliferation of pirate services, each dedicated to bringing live sports to the masses at massively reduced prices or even completely free.

As a result, it’s now possible to watch almost any sport from a pirate source, whether that’s via a website, an augmented Kodi setup, or a premium IPTV provider. Today, however, there’s one less pirate service available after a series of raids in Spain.

According to the National Police, raids took place in Madrid, Alicante, Albacete, Gandía, and the Valencian cities of Xátiva and Antequera this week. In total, seven people were arrested for illegally broadcasting football matches.

Unusually in such cases, the suspects are alleged to have offered matches via a number of mechanisms, including direct download, streaming, subscription streaming, and peer-to-peer distribution. This, the police say, allowed them to have the broadest possible access to the market.

The group’s servers were scattered around the world; some located in Spain, others in France, with the remainder in the United States and Canada.

The investigation began in 2016 following a complaint from La Liga, the top professional association in Spanish football. The group alleged that a total of 13 websites were illegally offering lists of links which enabled visitors to access content to which it holds the exclusive rights.

Police say the operation was well organized, with matches presented to Internet users with schedules ordered by championships. Revenue was generated via advertising which appeared on the various pages viewed by visitors.

It’s claimed that the sites’ operators also attempted to make their scattered servers harder to find by utilizing intermediary companies, including those that offer server location anonymization services.

Across the country, eight house searches reportedly yielded a trove of evidence, both digital and physical, detailing the pirate operation and the profit obtained from it.

At this early stage, police estimate the “economic benefit” to the defendants from subscriptions and advertising to be in the region of 1.4 million euros, although it’s unclear whether those are actual historic or projected gains.

Following the raids, seven websites were ordered to be blocked and three bank accounts, said to be linked to the pirate operation, were frozen. Police say that the investigation continues so further arrests and website blockades can’t be ruled out.

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