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Officers from UK IP protection trade body the Federation of Copyright Theft (FACT) and Police Scotland executed two search warrants at addresses in Glasgow as part of an ongoing investigation into the sale of illegal TV boxes to hundreds of licensed premises.
Licensed premises can purchase TV boxes which then illegally stream TV, sport and films from legitimate broadcasters, for a significantly reduced price. The criminal operation is estimated to have cost broadcasters more than £40 million (€51.7m) across the UK over the past eight years.
Police Scotland has been working in partnership with investigators from the Federation of Copyright Theft (FACT) for the past 16 months to identify the source of the illegal operation based in Glasgow but with a network across Scotland and the UK.
The investigation has also been supported by the English Premier League, as well as Sky and BT, who had officials present in Glasgow when the warrants were executed.
“The scale of this operation is significant, with an estimated 500 pubs involved but this could really be just be the tip of the iceberg,” admitted Chief Inspector David Pettigrew from London Road Police Office.
“This illegal production scheme has been carried out in other areas across the UK but this is undoubtedly the biggest operation of its kind in the world in terms of recovery. Police Scotland has developed a close working relationship with FACT which has been absolutely critical in helping us reach this point in the investigation.”
“I hope this investigation sends a clear message that this type of criminal activity does not go unnoticed and we will continue to work with our partners to identify those involved and hold them to account,” he confirmed.
“Pub landlords, as well as the general public, need to be aware of IPTV and set-top boxes with apps and add-ons allowing the streaming of pirated TV, sports and films are very much illegal,” advised Kieron Sharp, Director General of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).
“Content theft deprives businesses and individuals of an honest livelihood and so on behalf of our members, FACT will continue to work with police forces across the UK to crack down on the illegal sale of these boxes.”
“We work hard to protect the investment of our customers and we therefore support action to stop illegal suppliers who threaten their businesses,” asserted Alison Dolan, Deputy Managing Director of Sky Business.
Although no arrests have been made at present, officers will be reviewing the seized material and running an investigation to identify those responsible.
Police Scotland and FACT are also involved in waging war on the hosts of illicit Torrent websites that enable users to download movies, games, Ebooks and music.
Since the turn of the year, three major websites hosted in addresses around Edinburgh, Kilmarnock and Falkirk, represent the first Scottish sites of their type to be apprehended and taken down – with experts now warning of a growing issue.
Led by Police Scotland, with support from FACT and the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), the crackdown has highlighted an urgent need to change the public behaviour funding the torrent sites.
Police Constable Andy Law, who headed up the recent operations, said: “We’ve been successful in removing these sites and work is ongoing to remove several more that we have identified, in what is undoubtedly a growing problem. Hosts often believe they leave no footprint, but in reality we can trace sites back to an address and from there it leaves little scope for the culprit to hide their actions.”