The former administrator of one of Italy’s largest file-sharing sites has been handed a record-breaking fine. The individual, known online as Tex Willer, managed the large ItalianShare forum which together with sister sites allegedly serviced around 300,000 members. For his activities on the sites and criminal behavior including fraud and tax evasion the 49-year-old has now been ordered to pay a fine of 6.4 million euros ($8.56m).
In November 2011 the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), a department under Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance tasked with dealing with financial crime, executed a warrant resulting in the subsequent closure of five Las Vegas-hosted file-sharing sites.
The portals, which included ItalianShare, MusicShare, FilmShare and ItalianSexy, had the same Naples-based owner, a 49-year-old man known online as Tex Willer.
The sites, of which ItalianShare was the largest, had more than 300,000 users and carried in excess of 31,000 links to movies, music, TV shows, software and games indexed on BitTorrent, cyberlockers and eDonkey networks. The value placed on that content by police was a cool 32 million euros.
In July 2012 the GdF announced that they had placed the sites’ admin under arrest after investigators found that he had made an estimated 580,000 euros through advertising and donations, and by selling site userbase access to advertisers. He also created fake invoices to the tune of 100,000 euros and evaded 83,000 euros in taxes on the way.
Enzo Mazza, president of Italian anti-piracy group FIMI, told TorrentFreak that the case was of great importance due to the detailed investigation of the site’s finances.
“For the first time the Fiscal police did a very sophisticated analysis of the economics behind an infringing site using the standard procedure they are using for the money laundering investigation,” Mazza explained.
And now the case is all over, with a quite shocking outcome for the 49-year-old.
Italy’s Prefetto di Salerno has now ordered the man to pay a fine of 6.4 million euros ($8.56m), the largest penalty ever handed down in an Italian copyright-related case. We asked FIMI’s Enzo Mazza what made the case worthy of such a large fine.
“The Italian copyright law provides for additional administrative fines based on the number of works illegally distributed. Due to the enormous amount of products the fine became so huge,” Mazza explains.
Of course 6.4 million euros is indeed a huge amount, so what if the man is unable to pay?
“He will be prosecuted by the tax authority,” Mazza concludes.
The news comes on the back of other recent anti-piracy action in Italy which saw authorities order ISP blockades against BitTorrent sites TorrentReactor and Torrents.net. The sites responded by launching proxies to circumvent the ban. The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents are also subject to similar blocks in the region.