Customs and TradeNews

An international criminal organization that sold decoders to illegally distribute audiovisual content falls in Madrid

Agents of the National Police, in a joint operation with the Customs Surveillance Service of the Tax Agency, have dismantled an international criminal organization in Madrid that sold decoders to distribute audiovisual content illegally. The devices were manufactured in China and sent to a warehouse in Madrid, from where they were distributed by parcel to end customers or exported wholesale to other European countries where they were sold by third parties.

The organization offered decoders through different web platforms and, in addition, had an Internet forum, to which customers had access, in which they explained how to configure the devices and from which they offered technical support. The agents have arrested six people and have intervened 24,430 decoders, disconnecting 12,000 customers from the service. The analysis of the bank accounts of those investigated has revealed income derived from illicit activity of 1.2 million euros between 2017 and 2021.

The investigation began in September 2019 when two companies that produce audiovisual content -MEDIAPRODIMIENTO SLU and ALLIANCE FOR CREATIVITY AND ENTERTAINMENT (ACE)- denounced that their intellectual property rights were being violated. After several steps, the agents verified the existence of a criminal organization, made up of citizens of Chinese origin, dedicated to the manufacture and distribution of manipulated decoders that would allow fraudulent access to paid audiovisual content. 

They distributed to other countries from a warehouse in Madrid

Those investigated offered previously manipulated decoders through different web platforms, to which software had been installed that allowed access to different free or paid audiovisual platforms. They obtained the signal from numerous platforms and television channels, redirected them to their own server structure -hosted in at least four European countries- and subsequently illegally distributed it to their subscribers. In addition, to give the appearance of legality to the business, they had been registered under a name whose corporate purpose was the courier and parcel service for third parties.  

The nerve center of the organization was in a warehouse located in an industrial warehouse in Madrid. The decoders (manufactured in China) were received there and from there they were distributed, either through courier companies to end customers, or wholesale. For the latter, they used trucks that distributed them in large volumes to other European countries -mainly France, Germany or Portugal- where they were in turn sold by third parties. Likewise, the warehouse was the place from where the organization’s technicians, through a computer program, had absolute control of the audiovisual content they provided, access to customers according to their user profile, the contracting method, etc. . 

They had an internet forum that offered technical support to customers

As the investigation progressed, the agents identified the servers where the illegally offered content was stored, or the keys/passwords that allowed access to it. Part of them turned out to be located in Germany, France, Canada and the United Kingdom. In addition, the organization had an Internet forum, to which customers had access, in which the firmware and software that allowed access to content were provided. Likewise, they provided technical support on the management of the equipment and explained the steps to follow to access pre-installed hidden menus that allowed illegal activity. 

At the beginning of February, a device was established that ended with the arrest of six people in Madrid and the intervention of 24,430 decoders, 2,700 euros and the blocking of 3 bank accounts. In addition, the agents have deactivated the service to the 12,000 customers and have disabled the website that managed the user forum from which they offered technical assistance to customers. 

Finally, the analysis of bank accounts has revealed income derived from illicit activity of 1.2 million euros between 2017 and 2021, 800,000 of them in the last two years.