- The Sparks group of hackers and pirates has been dismantled, following a global operation.
- Europol, Eurojust, Interpol, and US law enforcement authorities worked together to make this possible.
- The arrested individuals face between five and thirty years of imprisonment, with several charges pointed against them.
Europol has announced that they have arrested several individuals in the context of a large-scale operation against pirates, which called for their collaboration with the US law enforcement authorities. The coordinated action took place in 18 countries, and the suspects who have been arrested mostly belong to the film pre-release group known as “SPARKS.”
Sixty servers located in Canada, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom were also identified and taken down.
The Sparks Group was known in the field for somehow being able to obtain unreleased content in the form of DVDs or Blu-ray disks. The pirates then managed to hack their way through the copyright protection, rip the films, and upload them on torrent websites. This had brought great financial damage to production studios, as the content leak was taking place prior to the official release and well before it entered the legal distribution channel pipelines. That said, the Sparks group wasn’t only infringing copyright, but it was doing so in the most damaging way.
Europol, Eurojust, and the American law enforcement agencies coordinated in real-time and cooperated with local police in various countries to arrest the suspects almost simultaneously. According to the latest information that comes from the US Department of Justice, one key member of the Sparks group, George Bridi, who is a citizen of the United Kingdom, was arrested on Sunday in Cyprus following an Interpol Red Notice.
Another high-standing member of the piracy ring who got arrested in the United States is Jonatan Correa, aka “Raid.” A third person who faces conspiracy and copyright infringement charges is Umar Ahmad, aka “Artist,” who was responsible for obtaining the Blu-Ray disks by deceiving retailers.
Bridi faces charges of wire fraud, conspiracy, copyright infringement, and conspiracy to transport stolen property. The maximum penalty for all of the above is 30 years in prison, and that will be up to the Southern District of New York court and judge Richard M. Berman to decide. The charges against Correa and Ahmad may bring them penalties of up to five years in prison.
This is definitely a huge blow against piracy and the pre-release scene in particular, as other well-known piracy groups who were doing the same have now stopped uploading stuff out of caution. Sparks was one of the most prolific uploaders in the world, but it certainly isn’t the only one out there.