A man who illegally broadcast Premier League matches to thousands of people has fled the UK after being sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
Michael Hornung, 38, was convicted in May of selling set top boxes that provided illlicit access to Sky TV and BT Sports, however he failed to attend a sentencing hearing last week.
The court was told that Hornung absconded to Northern Cyprus, a Turkish-controlled territory that has no extradition treaty with the UK.
The arrests were made after the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), an anti-piracy organisation, worked with the Greater Manchester Police to investigate activites of those supplying illegal streaming services.
The industry body recently said it would also be targetting people who watch the illegal streams, sending warnings to people suspected of using the services, however FACT chief executive Kieron Sharp said the focus was primarily on those providing the piracy platforms.
“FACT will continue to monitor channels used to advertise, market, sell and distribute apps, devices, and streams and take action against suppliers and operators,” Mr Sharp said.
“Individuals are motivated by the financial benefits from providing illegal content, but FACT is leading the way in combating digital piracy… FACT’s work with broadcasters and rights holders will continue in order to crack down on illegal streaming and to hold those behind it accountable for their actions.”
The set top boxes provided customers with access to premium subscription TV, as well as pay-per-view events like boxing matches, for just the initial cost of purchasing the device.
It is estimated that Hornung was making around £125,000 in annual turnover, over a period of three years, from selling the devices.
“This was a sophisticated and remunerative business supplying customers the means to access TV without paying the broadcasters or others with intellectual property rights to that content,” said prosecutor Ari Alibhai.
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