A skilled criminal group, providing an illegal TV streaming service, earned €700,000 over the last three years, a major garda investigation has found.
Officers believe that the full amount generated by the group could be multiples of this, as investigations, here and abroad, continue.
The operation in Ireland was conducted by the specialist Intellectual Property Crime Unit (IPCU), which is part of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The Criminal Assets Bureau is being brought into the investigation to uncover proceeds of crime, such as valuables, cars or properties, as well as identifying suspect criminal income that could be subject to tax demands.
The IPCU conducted searches in Dublin and Meath on Tuesday morning and arrested four people, all Irish nationals.
The operation was part of a wider investigation by police forces in England and Scotland and co-ordinated by Europol, the EU police agency. Europol said a further two people were arrested in south-east England, in what was a “complex” investigation across the three countries.
Money-laundering legislation was used here to freeze bank accounts, and more than €80,000 in the accounts was frozen.
The unit warned that people were funding organised crime in availing of the illegal service, which included pay-per-view channels.
An Garda Síochána said it had carried out “searches of two houses, in Crumlin and Ashbourne, on September 11.
"Four people (two women, aged 37 and 40, and two men, aged 42 and 45) were arrested and detained under Section 4, Criminal Justice Act, 1984, in Crumlin and Ashbourne Garda Stations, and were later released.”
It said that the suspects were arrested for offences under both the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000, and the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act, 2010.
The operation was the culmination of an investigation by An Garda Síochána into the illegal streaming of TV content, including pay-per-view products.
The statement said “significant support” was being provided by some of the major TV companies and the Motion Picture Association.
It added: “The operation is supported by the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau and local Gardaí in Crumlin and Ashbourne.
"Six bank accounts and two credit union accounts have been identified and freezing orders, pursuant to money-laundering legislation, have been invoked.
"In total, €84,000 has been frozen.“In addition, nine third-party payment accounts have been identified and ‘limited’. It has been established that over €700,000 in total has been paid into these accounts in the last 3 years.”
Speaking yesterday, Detective Superintendent George Kyne, of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said:
"The security around these devices and illegal-streaming platforms exposes customers and leaves their home systems vulnerable. It is important that the public is aware of the impact of illegal streaming and its consequences.”
Europol said it deployed two experts to Dublin during the investigation.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.