Europol, Spanish National Police crack massive IPTV ring with resellers in Malta

People in Malta still using illegal IPTV services may be in for a nasty surprise the next time they switch on their devices, if they haven’t had one already, after a joint operation conducted by Europol and the Spanish National Police cracked an IPTV ring that had half a million customers in Europe.

The Spanish IPTV pirate platform had 95 resellers located in Malta, Spain, the UK, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece. It offered some 2,600 television channels, 23,000 movies and series for which the ring purchased large subscription packages and, according to Spanish police, sold them to resellers in six countries, Malta included.

The ring, according to Spanish National Police, was making some €3 million a year, which its members laundered by purchasing expensive real estate, acquiring movable property and diverting funds through Spanish companies to bank accounts in tax havens.

The Spanish National Police warned it is still investigating in a bid to identify more people related to the organisation “in other countries”, without specifying whether Malta or Maltese resellers were on its radar.

In all, the Spanish police arrested four people from Malaga who used various web pages to advertise subscription packages for ‘TV Choice Spain’, ‘Great TV Choice’ and ‘Best TV Choice’.

During the searches, agents disconnected ten administration panels connected to 32 servers located in France, the Netherlands and Spain, where the illegal television content was hosted. They also confiscated computer equipment, cash and two high-end vehicles valued at €180,000.

Some of the computer equipment confiscated during the operation. Photo: Spanish National Police

The investigation began in 2020 after a complaint filed by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a coalition of companies whose purpose is to combat online piracy.

The organisation had been in action since 2012, which saw it fraudulently commercialising and distributing audiovisual content from different television platforms.

They had several web pages advertising the sale of subscriptions to lists of television channels and decoders that, through keys and passwords, allowed users to watch the channels and content belonging to different pay television platforms.

The ACE applauded the Spanish National Police and Europol for shuttering the illegal IPTV service used by more than 500,000 viewers.

“Additionally, the illicit services were promoted via real estate agencies, mainly in the coastal areas of the country,” the ACE said.

An investigator at work on the joint investigation. Photo: Spanish National Police

According to a Broadcasting Authority audience survey published in June, the number of people in Malta using IPTV services has been on a slight decline, presumably over fears of such crackdowns leading to outages.

In fact, a court earlier this year ordered internet service providers to block access to hundreds of IP addresses in Malta that were found to have been broadcasting illegal content, while, in another case last June, the court ordered the blocking of Italian Seria A and Spanish La Liga football matches from being streamed on IPTV in Malta.

According to the BA’s latest survey, people who said they used IPTV services decreased from 12.5% in 2021 to 9% in 2022, while the number of those using an Android box decreased from 8% in 2021 to 7.7% this year – meaning that close to 17 % of people in Malta make use of the illegal television services.

                           
                           
                               
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