Local police seized dozens of IPTV devices from one person last week as part of a major Italian operation against illegal live-streaming sites and services.

On Tuesday, the Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s financial crime police, seized the equivalent of €10.6 million in equipment and assets from 23 suspects in what it dubbed Operation Perfect Storm.

The operation also shut down 5,500 illegal sites and services in an action that took place in 12 countries including Malta. IPTV is the delivery of television content over the internet.

A spokesperson for the Malta Police Force said searches were carried out in three different properties, two in Qormi and one in St Paul’s Bay.

The properties all belong to the same individual, who was flagged up in the Italian investigation.

The police seized 150 devices used for the broadcasting of IPTV signals, 48 smart satellite cards, two smartphones and around €13,000 in cash.

The Malta Police Force spokesperson said the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) coordinated the action in several European countries at the request of the Guardia di Finanza through a European Investigation Order (EIO).

In Malta, the operation was coordinated by the Financial Crimes Investigations Department and the Cybercrime Unit. A warrant issued by Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech was limited to search and seizure, as requested by the EIO, so no arrests were made, the spokesperson said.

However, the police investigation is ongoing.

Equipment was also seized in Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Slovenia, Sweden, Belgium, Romania, the Netherlands and France.

5,500 computer servers shut down

Last week, Eurojust said that following the shutting down of the 5,500 computer servers in the countries where the operation was carried out, online streaming services were blocked for customers in Italy.

In fact, hundreds of thousands of Italian IPTV users reported their TV sets displayed a warning that the site through which they were illegally viewing the programme had been seized.

Similarly, customers in Malta reported a clampdown on IPTV software, probably related to the Italian operation.

While the crackdown did not impact all IPTV service providers in Malta, the affected ones informed customers that the situation would be brought under control within a few days. 

The Italy-led operation follows a similar one in September of last year by the Italian desk at Eurojust. Back then 200 servers were taken down, in what was described at the time as the “world’s largest” video piracy crackdown. 

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