The Austrian police have arrested 20 people across the country linked to an illegal IPTV network that, between 2016 and 2023, decrypted copyright-protected broadcasts and redistributed them to thousands of customers.

Investigation into the illegal network started after a complaint was filed in Germany, leading to the discovery of a criminal enterprise consisting of 80 perpetrators, all Turkish citizens.

The piracy ring operated on a hierarchy of suppliers, who decrypted and supplied TV signals, and resellers, who bought access to the signal for up to $50/year and resold it to end customers for up to $200/year.

Although the operation was briefly promoted through Facebook advertisements, customers were reached primarily through ‘word of mouth,’ with many customers turning into resellers in a pyramid-like expansion.

The police’s announcement says 15 resellers and three suppliers were identified in Austria. Each of the resellers had between 300 and 2,500 customers, who paid them an annual subscription to access the illegal broadcast.

The arrests were made in Vienna, Lower Austria, Salzburg, Vorarlberg, and Tyrol, with the following items seized during the law enforcement operation:

  • €1.6 million ($1.74M) from 60 bank accounts
  • 35 servers used for signal decryption and IPTV feed distribution
  • An Audi A7 luxury car
  • 55 computer systems, hard drives, and smartphones

“The main perpetrators owned luxurious real estate, sports cars, and also several companies, clubs, and private societies,” reads the Austrian police’s announcement (machine translated).

“Some of the illegally earned money was used for legal investments and thus introduced the suppliers into the higher economic cycle.”

The arrested individuals have pleaded guilty to commercial fraud, money laundering, the Access Control Act, and provisions of the Copyright Act.

The remaining members of the crime group are in Germany, where the center of the illegal operations was located, but the authorities there have yet to begin civil proceedings.