GARDAÍ in Cork investigating an alleged Pay TV fraud are trying to trace where an estimated €2.25 million reaped from the scheme a year is being channeled.
Customers who purchased so-called “dodgy boxes” to get a cable TV service at a fraction of the prices charged by legitimate companies such as Sky and Virgin Media are not being pursued by gardaí.
However, sources said the investigation will focus on a group of people based in the Cork area who distributed boxes to between 15,000 and 20,000 customers across the country.
Seven locations across Cork city were searched by gardaí on Thursday morning, including two business premises. Several “set-top” boxes were seized, along with a large amount of documentation. As a result of the operation, customers who had availed of the cheap service had their connections cut on Thursday. It is understood several businesses were among those affected.
Sky and Virgin Media had made complaints to gardaí under copyright legislation recently in relation to the “dodgy box” service.
The group under investigation are not known to gardaí previously and are all believed to be Irish. No arrests have been made but the investigation continues, with a central plank being to establish where the money earned has been channeled. It is estimated that the alleged fraud has seen Sky and Virgin Media lose out on up to €20 million.
Customers were charged approximately €150 per year for the illegal service. One garda source said that more than €2.25 million a year is being made by those behind the operation.
Now, gardaí want to trace where the money is and will be examining documentation seized in Thursday’s operation in a bid to locate it.
The documentation will also be used to establish if there are any other premises which should be searched as part of the operation.
A file will be prepared for the Director of Prosecutions, who will decide if charges will be brought.
The garda operation was backed up by representatives from Virgin Media, Sky TV and Nagra.
The searches were carried out by up to 40 gardaí from the Cork City division, supported by local detectives, local Computer Crime Investigation Unit, Cork city.
In 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that sale of a multimedia player which enables films that are available illegally on the internet to be viewed easily and for free on a television screen could constitute an infringement of copyright.