Westminster City Council’s Trading Standards team, working in partnership with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), has secured a prosecution against an eBay user who was selling internet protocol television (IPTV) devices online. IPTV devices enable users to access broadcasts, such as sporting events and films, which would otherwise require a paid subscription.
Fuaad Al-Saegh was handed a two-year custodial sentence, suspended for two years, at Southwark Crown Court on 5 November 2021.
Council officers began their investigation into Al-Saegh, a Westminster resident, in 2017 after it was alleged he had been selling IPTV devices via two separate accounts on eBay since 2016. As part of their investigation, trading standards officers covertly purchased three of the devices, which were retailing at £150-£250.
FACT provided intelligence on Al-Saegh’s internet activity and examined the IPTV devices obtained by the council to ascertain the extent of copyright infringement. Upon inspection, the devices were found to allow the viewing of TV channel beIN Sports without a legitimate subscription and a large number of films which were made available without permission of the rightsholders.
A raid was undertaken on Al-Saegh’s home address with assistance from FACT and the National Crime Agency, which resulted in his arrest and the discovery of further devices at the premises. Investigating officers, working closely with eBay, established the defendant had sold 628 devices for more than £82,000.
Councillor Heather Acton, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Communities, said: “This investigation into illegal IPTV devices was a first for our trading standards service and demonstrates the expertise of our officers.
“The proceeds of crimes such as this are often used by organised crime groups to fund more serious criminal activity, so I am pleased that our investigation, with assistance from FACT, resulted in a successful prosecution.”
FACT CEO Kieron Sharp added: “This is an important conviction for Westminster City Council’s Trading Standards team, who took on this prosecution against an individual who defrauded the broadcast and film industries for his own gain.
“FACT will continue to monitor platforms used to advertise, market, sell and distribute apps, devices and streams, to take action against suppliers, operators and consumers.”