May 31- An illegal streaming gang who offered cut-price subscriptions for Premier League matches to more than 50,000 customers have been jailed.
The ringleader was sentenced to 11 years in prison and four others received sentences of between three and more than five years.
The gang offered illegal access to matches from hundreds of channels around the world, selling cut-price £10-a-month subscriptions and bragging they made money showing games not otherwise available to watch live in the UK because of “blackout” broadcasting rules.
The prosecution for fraud was brought to protect “some of the world’s most valuable content”, the Premier League’s lawyers said.
The gang were convicted of conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and contempt of court after generating more than £7 million in five years via three fraudulent operations known as Flawless, Shared VPS and Optimal (also known as Cosmic),
The “blackout”, in place for decades, is to encourage fans to attend matches, at all levels of football, rather than watch on TV. But Flawless offered subscribers ‘3pm kick-off’ Premier League games, otherwise broadcast live only abroad.
Premier League general counsel Kevin Plumb said: “Today’s sentencing is the result of a long and complex prosecution of a highly sophisticated operation.
“The sentences handed down, which are the longest sentences ever issued for piracy-related crimes, vindicate the efforts made to bring these individuals to justice and reflect the severity and extent of the crimes.
“This prosecution is another concrete example of the clear links between piracy and wider criminality, a warning we repeatedly make.
“While most Premier League fans enjoy watching our games in a safe way, those who were customers of these services were effectively supporting individuals involved in other sinister and dangerous organised crime.
“The Premier League’s substantial financial contribution to the entire football pyramid is made possible through the ability to sell our broadcast rights.
“We are pleased that through rulings such as this, the courts continue to show that they recognise the importance of safeguarding the Premier League’s rights.
“We will continue to protect our rights and our fans by investigating and prosecuting illegal operators at all levels.”
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