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Digital TV boxesAll five were arrested on suspicion of selling and distributing illegal set-top boxes.

Five arrested in crackdown on illegal TV set-top boxes

  • Officers execute warrants in Tameside, Bolton, Bootle, Manchester, Cheadle and Rhyl this morning.
  • Significant number of illegal digital TV boxes seized at the homes of the five suspects.
  • Suspects believed to have made around £250,000 altogether across social media, online forums, as well as their own dedicated websites.
  • The day of action was instigated by FACT on behalf the Premier League, Sky, BT Sport and Virgin Media.

Our Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) joined forces with FACT, Greater Manchester Policeand the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to make arrests in North West England and Wales. The four men and one woman have been taken to local police stations for questioning.

Officers from PIPCU, Greater Manchester Police, Merseyside Police and FACT investigators issued three Cease and Desist Notices to other offenders the day before. Two further investigations have also been passed on to HMRC for further action, and North Wales Police also assisted officers on the operation.

Unlicensed digital boxes

All five were arrested on suspicion of selling and distributing illegal set-top boxes. These devices are pre-loaded with unlicensed add-ons and apps which allow users to illegally stream content to their TV such as premium pay-for TV channels, live sport and films.

This crackdown follows the first prosecution of illegal set-top box sellers in England. This landmark case saw illegal set-top box supplier Terry O’Reilly sentenced to four years in prison in December 2016. A second supplier pleaded guilty and received a two year suspended sentence.

Illegal sales “undermines legitimate subscription TV”

DCI Pete Ratcliffe, Head of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit said “This operation is aimed at taking out distributors of illegal set top boxes in the north west of England.

“This industry undermines the legitimate sale of subscription television services which employ tens of thousands of people in the UK and whose contributions are key to the creative and sporting industries.

Reaction from our partners

Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation , said: "Profiting from illegal streaming is completely unacceptable. The UK's creative industries are a national asset that must be protected.

"Today’s efforts have shown that partnership works. I wish to congratulate FACT and the police for ending these criminal operations.”

Kieron Sharp, Director General of FACT , said "Today’s day of action should send out a clear warning to anyone involved in the sale and distribution of illegal set-top boxes that law enforcement and industry take this matter very seriously.

"Set-top boxes loaded with apps and add-ons allowing access to copyright infringing material are very much illegal and anyone involved in selling these boxes should not be surprised to receive a knock on the door."

Detective Inspector Neal Colburn, of GMP’s Asset Attack Team , said: "Operations such as these are a vital means of protecting jobs supported by the entertainment and creative industries which are a vital part of the UK economy.

"GMP is committed to this multi-agency approach, which is driven by intelligence sharing, and will continue to be part of this successful partnership to tackle copyright-related crime.

"Today’s action should send a clear message to anyone who thinks it is acceptable to be part of this illegal industry which is robbing honest people of jobs and insulting law-abiding consumers who pay for their channels with their hard-earned money."

Premier League Director of Legal Services, Kevin Plumb , said: “FACT has done an excellent job coordinating these raids with the appropriate authorities.

"Like other sports and creative industries, the Premier League’s model is predicated on the ability to market and sell rights and protect its intellectual property. It is because of this that clubs can invest in star players and managers, and world class stadiums – the very things fans enjoy about our competition.

"These raids follow a recent case we brought that saw a supplier of IPTV devices which enable mass piracy of Premier League football sent to prison for four years. It was the first case of its type and the fact police are now targeting and arresting others selling similar devices is further evidence for consumers that they are illegal."

The arrests

  • A 33 year old man was arrested at his home in Tameside by GMP
  • A 60 year old man was arrested at his home in Bolton by PIPCU
  • A 36 year old man was arrested at his home in Bootle by PIPCU
  • A 46 year old man was arrested at his home in Manchester by GMP
  • A 36 year old woman was arrested at her home in Cheadle by GMP