FBI extends piracy-hunt to Romania, sites shut down
Tue 14 Jul 2015
The FBI have assisted Romanian authorities in the closure of three piracy-based torrent sites in the region. A report from the prosecutor’s office in Romania’s High Court of Cassation and Justice details a cooperative investigation dating back four years which has now resulted in raids and site seizures, including the domain serialepenet.ro, now taken over with a government legend (see image below)
Roughly (machine) translated, the warning reads: ‘This domain name is seized in accordance with article 249 of the Code of penală. This domain name is the subject of a criminal case,’
Additionally fisierulmeu.ro has been taken offline. Torrentfreak reports that authorities carried out searches of four locations, including the homes of individuals and also companies thought to be working in cooperation with the pirate sites, or furnishing services to them, and that documentation and computer equipment was seized during these raids.
The central hub of the operation was reportedly tracked down to an office in Bucharest, with a connection intimated between web-hosting firm Xservers, a cloud-hosting company with a range of business hosting solutions. Unsubstantiated media allegations implicate Xservers in money-laundering for the pirate operations, with any official word on the matter still pending. An undisclosed number of men have been arrested on suspicion of tax evasion and intellectual property offences, among other charges.
The FBI has a strong presence in Romania for more than the pursuit of redress for copyright-holders in the U.S., maintaining Legats (legal attaches) who represent the director of the FBI in Romanian territory, and who work in concert with Romanian and Moldovian investigative authorities at quite an intimate level.
FBI programs in Romania have spent more than $4.6mn [PDF] (£2.9mn) in interdepartmental programs and initiatives with Romania-based authorities since 2007, which costs include the placement of an agent within the country’s Organised Crime Directorate – an organization within the Romanian police force – and additional personnel at the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) centre, an investment amounting to $3.4mn (£2.1mn). Though the FBI do not have default powers of investigation or arrest without specific government warrant, this does not usually seem to be a hindrance – in 2010 the FBI participated in the arrest of 50 members of a fraud gang who had extracted approximately three million dollars from victims in the U.S., executing 100 search warrants in the process. Additionally the FBI funds the training of Romanian officers from various branches of enforcement in cross-over schemes between the two countries.