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Police raid ends vouchers

Put down your MP3s and come out with your hands up

Police have shut down an online voucher system allegedly used by Russian music download website to get around the recent removal of its card processing facilities in the UK and Europe.

An unnamed 25-year-old man, allegedly the UK-based European agent for, was arrested under the Fraud Act following a police raid in the east end of London earlier this month. The bust followed an investigation by global recording industry body IFPI and the BPI, the UK record companies' association.

The arrested man is accused of advertising and selling vouchers through auction sites such as eBay and the website The vouchers (typically valued at around £10) contained an access code that allowed punters to download tracks from Investigators reckon the suspect transferred cash to via various offshore accounts operated by the site's Russian owners. Early estimates suggest the operation generated tens of thousands of pounds.

The website has been taken offline following the bust, during which Metropolitan Police officers seized computer kit and paperwork for further investigation.

The unlicensed sale of music became a criminal offence in the UK under Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006. It is the first time the new law has been applied in a copyright-related case.

In a statement, the BPI described the raid as a significant step towards the demise of, once described as the UK's second most popular digital music site after iTunes. The "illegal" Russian website is running out of payment options as the law closes in, according to the BPI.

Credit card issuers and online payment firms such as PayPal have withdrawn payment facilities from following complaints over copyright infringement earlier this year. faces ongoing criminal proceedings in Russia as well as a raft of civil actions against it by the music industry internationally. says that it pays record companies and artists via an agreement with a Russian copyright organisation, ROMS. The BPI said none of its record companies have allowed ROMS to license the sale of their music via the internet either in Russia or anywhere else. Furthermore, ROMS has been booted out of CISAC, the international copyright confederation.

" is an illegal download service and the decision by major credit cards and payment services no longer to support it amply demonstrates that fact," said BPI chief exec Geoff Taylor. "British music fans should beware of voucher schemes like this one that seek to prop up an illegal service that rips off artists." ®

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