Italian authorities said Wednesday they have helped smash what they called "the world's largest" pirate streaming TV network with five million customers in Italy alone.

The financial police in southern city Naples said in a statement they had arrested 23 people as part of the operation against Xtream Codes, which had a turnover of around €60 million.

Italian media reported that raids linked to the case had been carried out on Wednesday in Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands in collaboration with The Hague-based Eurojust, the EU's judicial cooperation unit.

The piracy operation was allegedly created by two Greek nationals, police said in a statement. Italian media reported that the network's mastermind had been arrested in Thessaloniki.

The platform decrypted copyright protected television images and re-broadcast them on the Internet "on a wide scale".

For €12, subscribers could access all content from such giants as Sky, Netflix and Mediaset.

As part of the anti-piracy operation, police seized hardware and shut down 800 internet site and 183 servers used to re-broadcast channels.

Those responsible for the piracy face up to three years in prison and a fine of €25,000.

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