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Police have smashed a counterfeit software ring in Italy worth almost £40m in what is described as one of the largest and most organised cases of software piracy in Europe.

One person has been charged and a further 10 suspects fingered as the Italian finance police (Guardia di Finanza) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) seized 100,000 software titles ready to be copied onto CDs and DVDs.

The haul also included thousands of other illegally produced media including the latest film releases and video games. Four thousand images of explicit pornography - including child porn - were also seized as well as information that could lead to the duplication of satellite TV smart cards.

The network sold counterfeit software over the Internet using three illegal Web sites. It also sold products using anonymous emails which sometimes used encrypted messages with passwords to reach customers.

The Internet piracy ring had an estimated turnover of more than £38.5m.

The BSA welcomed the crackdown claiming it is part of an active investigation into software piracy in Europe.

Last month more than 20 people were arrested after police and Trading Standards officers launched a series of dawn raids in the UK in an orchestrated crackdown on software pirates.

Codenamed "Operation Andrew", officials seized more than 8,500 pirate master CDs and copying equipment worth £500,000. ®

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