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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Italian piracy ring smashed
Compact disc, BBC
Illegally copied software was sold in huge quantities
One of Europe's largest net piracy rings has been shut down by Italian police.

More than 180 people have been charged in connection with piracy and another 10,000 are still being investigated.

The Italian police seized more than 118m euros (83m) of illegal software in raids to break up the pirate ring.

The raids were carried out in more than 30 regions across Italy as police uncovered the scale of the counterfeiting organisation.

Sophisticated sellers

Italy's Guardia di Finanza staged "Operation Mouse" over the last six months to smash the sophisticated counterfeiting and sales organisation.

The huge network was uncovered by investigators following up a tip off about a single e-mail address.

Now the Guardia has evidence of more than 95,000 suspect e-mail addresses and a net-based sales network that was capable, it is estimated, of an annual turnover of 2bn euros (1.41bn).

Pirated goods bought by customers from a network of websites were sent out by post.

Raids mounted in 30 Italian provinces to break up the pirate ring netted thousands of copies of fake software, films and music as well as PCs, CD and DVD writers and video recorders.

Madonna at film premiere, PA
Music by Madonna was pirated in Italy
Fake software from Adobe, Autodesk, Macromedia and Microsoft was being offered by the pirates as well as albums by Madonna and Robbie Williams and Italian versions of recently released movies such as Gangs of New York and Die Another Day.

The Business Software Alliance and the Federation Against Music Piracy helped Italian police with the investigation and the raids.

So far 181 people have been charged under Italian copyright laws and more than 10,000 others who produced, sold or bought counterfeit goods are also being investigated.

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