Raid halts distribution to an estimated 300-plus pirates

LONDON — Nine people were arrested when police and Trading Standards officials smashed a massive organized crime piracy syndicate in the U.K. last week.

A series of raids Thursday resulted in the confiscation of millions of dollars worth of pirated material — including films, music, business software, PlayStation games and suspected pedophile material.

The British Phonographic Industry’s director of antipiracy, David Martin, said: “Music pirates are increasingly dealing in all sorts of illegal material — be it films or computer software. These raids are a perfect example of how we as an industry can pool our resources to great effect, and long may our relationship continue.”

Martin said the sting was the culmination of a yearlong probe involving the BPI’s specialist antipiracy unit and the Federation Against Copyright Theft, or FACT.

During a raid in Sheffield, authorities seized a computer server controlling the communication and distribution network to an estimated 300-plus pirates, each of whom was believed to be paying a subscription fee to access the crime syndicate’s illicit Internet distribution service.

Police said this is the first time a joint investigation in the U.K. has disabled a distribution network this large.

The coordinated raids targeted premises in Manchester, Sheffield, Eastbourne, Darlington, Hull, Hartlepool, Anglesey, Wrexham and Derby.

The nine individuals apprehended are understood to be the syndicate’s ringleaders. Each was questioned and later released on bail, pending further investigation.

“We’re delighted that we’ve been able to put a stop to the operation of what is effectively a massive crime syndicate,” FACT director general Brian Conlon said. “By going after the root of the problem, we’ve been able to dramatically reduce the availability of pirate material across the U.K.”

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