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Multi-agency action against pirated set-top boxes

Trading Standards officers from across the North East took part in a multi-agency operation last Thursday 17 March against Television set-top box piracy, resulting in 6 arrests and 7 search warrants being executed.

Forty-two Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) set-top boxes were seized from addresses in Consett, Lanchester, Washington, Gateshead, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, and Seamer by officers from Trading Standards, the Police, The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU). The raids were part of a day of action to disrupt the sale of set-top boxes which have been illegally modified to stream pirated channels, which include movies and sports.

Police officers from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Unit PIPCU executed a search warrant at an address in Sunderland, where a 37 year-old man was arrested on suspicion of distributing an unauthorised decoder, money laundering and making/supplying items for use in fraud.

The intelligence led investigation was initiated by FACT in February 2016 following a third party referral which indicated that illegally modified IPTV boxes were being sold on the internet from the locations in the northeast of England. A multi-agency working group was established to bring together the investigative expertise at FACT, PIPCU and NERSOU police forces (Northumbia, Durham and Cleveland police) along with Trading Standards.

The head of PIPCU, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Ratcliffe, said:

“This operation is an excellent example of multi-agency working across force boundaries to tackle piracy and those intent on making money at the expense of honest subscription payers who deserve a fair deal. Set-top box piracy is costing the entertainment industry millions every year and it invites possible risks from malware and viruses into homes where these devices are in use. We routinely seek to identify and disrupt those intent on making quick cash from piracy and will use every enforcement opportunity to bring them to justice.”

Director General of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), Kieron Sharp, said:

“Today’s joint operation in the North East sends a clear message to anyone involved in the sale of illegal TV streaming boxes that FACT, along with the police and Trading Standards, are taking this crime very seriously. Consumers need to be aware that these cheap pre-configured TV boxes are illegal. They are stealing copyrighted content and starving UK businesses from revenue, as well as putting consumers’ devices at risk of malware and ransomware.”

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.

The operationally independent unit was launched in September 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The unit is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, which is the National Policing Lead for Fraud.