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181 Italians charged in €100m software raids

And another 10,300 under investigation

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Italian police have charged 181 people, following raids on one of Europe's biggest bootleg software rings.

They seized €118m worth of illegal software, music and films and estimate that the counterfeiting operation had an annual turnover of €100m.

Another 10,300 people are under investigation. That's not a ring, that's a town.

The police investigation sounds very military: 'Operation Mouse' was led by the Green Berets unit of Milan's Rapid Reaction Force (Compagnia di Pronto Impiego), a division of the Guardia di Finanza, Italy's tax police.

Let's switch to BSA's breathless press release:

It began with a lead to a single email address and
culminated in raids across 30 Italian Provinces over the last six months. Uncovering more than 95,000 suspect email addresses, the operation revealed a sophisticated sales network using the Internet and
email to target customers, capable of annual sales with an estimated commercial value of €2 billion.

Goods seized included 1000s of illegal copies of software, music and films plus PCs, CD/DVD writers and video recorders. Products from major manufacturers including Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Macromedia, Microsoft
and Symantec, the latest albums by Madonna and Robbie Williams and current Italian film releases including Gangs of New York and Die Another Day, were found in the raids.

The network used email and illegal websites to market itself and distributed goods via mail-order. During the investigation, 12 websites and 28 email accounts were monitored and intercepted and two websites
have been placed under restraint.

The Business Software Alliance is cock-a-hoop, no doubt, about the bust. Italy has the second-worst record in Western Europe on illegal software, with an estimated 47 per cent using dodgy product.

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