Cork gardaí thwart pirate 'TV cards' operation which could have cost providers €20m

Cork gardaí thwart pirate 'TV cards' operation which could have cost providers €20m

Gardaí in Cork have pulled the plug on a large sophisticated pay-TV piracy operation which could have cost two of the largest providers in Ireland up to €20m in lost revenue.

The scale of the illegal operation was exposed today following a protracted investigation which culminated in a series of coordinated early morning raids across the city.

Documentation seized during the searches shows the operation had a customer base of between 15,000 and 20,000 nationwide - all of whom have had their illegal TV service disconnected.

Supt Mick Comyns, who is leading the investigation, said no arrests were made.

But he said a large number of electronic devices and equipment, including set-top boxes and viewing cards, as well as a vast quantity of documentation, has been seized and investigations are ongoing.

The investigation was launched several months ago on foot of an initial complaint from Virgin Media who had concerns about pay-tv piracy. Sky Ireland subsequently made a similar complaint.

A small garda team was established to investigate possible offences under the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000. They were assisted by technical experts from Sky Ireland and Virgin Media.

The results of their investigations culminated in today's searches. The technical advisors from the media companies were also involved in the operation.

A team of up to 40 gardaí and detectives from the Cork City Garda Division searched seven premises, both business and residential properties at addresses across the city, and recovered a large amount of electronic equipment.

But it was only when the documentation was examined that gardaí and the TV companies discovered the full extent of the operation.

Supt Comyns said the documents suggest an extensive and widespread customer base of between 15,000 to 20,000 customers countrywide.

Sky welcomed the garda operation and said: “It’s in the interests of both consumers and everyone working in the creative industries that we all take piracy seriously. It’s now easier than ever for people to stream the content they love legally, for example with streaming services like NOW TV.”

Virgin Media declined to comment.

Once the raids were concluded, a large operation to shut down the illegal TV service and to disconnect its customers began at 11am and continued for several hours.

It is understood that they were paying a fraction of the annual fees charged by Sky and Virgin for their various subscription services.

It is understood this operation involved a certain amount of legitimate subscriptions to the service providers, whose signals were then transmitted to clone or reconfigured TV cards.

The electronic equipment seized today will now be subjected to extensive technical examination as part of the overall investigation.

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