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Italian police break up biggest TV piracy network

ROME (Reuters) -Italy's police said on Friday they had dismantled the country's largest network for online TV piracy, one that accounted for 70% of illegal streaming across the nation.

The network, which advertised its services on Telegram and other social media, had more than 900,000 users, who would typically each pay 10 euros ($10.3) per month to access films, soccer games, and other content from various platforms.

The people behind the racket, which yielded monthly profits of around 10 million euros, were based in several Italian cities as well as in Britain, Germany and Tunisia, a police statement said.

Some 70 people were placed under investigation for various offences, including membership of an international criminal organisation, money laundering, fraudulent transfer of assets, ID forgery and impersonation.

The investigation was led by prosecutors in Catania, Sicily, who ordered inspections and seizures of assets in more than 20 cities, mostly in southern Italy but also Rome and other central and northern locations.

Luigi De Siervo, the head of Serie A, Italy's top soccer league, expressed in a statement his "most heartfelt thanks for the extraordinary job done in this unrelenting fight against illegal streaming."

Commenting on Friday's crackdown, DAZN, which last year spent some 2.5 billion euros on domestic broadcasting rights for Serie A, said such illegal players jeopardised the ability to continue to invest in the live streaming of sports events.

The CEO of Sky Italia, Andrea Duilio, also congratulated law enforcement authorities.

In another raid last year, Italian police said they had blocked 1.5 million users who were streaming illegally from providers including Netflix Inc, Comcast's Sky unit, DAZN and domestic broadcaster Mediaset.

($1 = 0.9701 euros)

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini and Elvira Pollina; Editing by Bradley Perrett and Tomasz Janowski)