Spanish police, with the help of Europol and German officers have arrested a criminal gang operating an illegal cardsharing service and an online piracy portal that allowed viewers to access pay-TV channels via the Internet.
The investigation, called Operation FAKE, started after a Spanish provider of TV decoders complained to local authorities of another company counterfeiting and selling their products online.
Crooks ran a portal for viewing pay-TV channels
Europol says the second company was importing decoders from China and was creating custom firmware that would decrypt satellite TV signals. The company would distribute these counterfeit TV decoders through online websites and forums.
Authorities say the group also operated an online service which funneled decoded pay-TV streams from such decoders and made them available for interested customers. The crooks made available over 1,600 TV channels from different countries to Internet users.
These types of portals are common online, often plastered with ads that bring to their creators a nice profit. The portal was hosted on different servers across Europe, and authorities had it taken down, with the help of German police.
Group operated one of the biggest Bitcoin mining centers in Europe
In order to launder the huge sums of money it made from selling counterfeit TV decoders (cardsharing) and via its Internet pay-TV service, the crooks used a sophisticated network of companies, including shell companies, but also set up six Bitcoin mining centers across Europe.
Europol claims these centers were one of the largest Bitcoin mining operations in Europe. Police seized from the crooks 78.3 Bitcoin (€31,320 / $34,903).
Additionally, Spanish authorities said they also seized 48,800 counterfeit TV decoders, €183,200 ($164,385) in cash, ten luxury vehicles, one counterfeit luxury car, a private plane, several financial documents and loads of IT equipment.
Operation FAKE arrests took place on May 18, 2016, when Spanish police with the help of Europol raided 38 houses in seven cities across Spain, including Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia.