More details have emerged on the arrest of a German lawyer and three businessmen who masterminded an international warez network and grossed €1m.
A spokesman for German anti-piracy organisatin GVU told Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel on Friday (17 Sept) that the crackdown may have been the biggest blow ever against internet pirates anywhere in the world.
The main suspect, Bernhard Syndikus, a lawyer, was arrested for criminal breach of copyright,money laundering and membership in a criminal conspiracy. He didn't request a lawyer himself after his custody, a spokesman told press agency DPA.
Police last week raided the offices of Gravenreuth & Syndikus, a Munich law firm, of which Syndikus is a partner.
According to German reports almost all the funds of the warez site Ftpwelt.com were channeled through an offshore company Internet Payment Systems Ltd, registered on the Caribbean island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, and ended up in a small eastern German town, Breitungen.
Although hackers discovered the link between Ftpwelt.com and Syndikus, a posting earlier this year already revealed the relationship between the lawyer and several illegal sites, including Ftpwelt.com and what was advertised as Germany's biggest Bittorrent site, Bitfilme.com. A search in Google reveals this site was extremely popular among illegal movie swappers.
The domain name Ftpwelt.com was registered by Software Development Consultants Limited on Tortola, which uses the same postbox address as New Internet Businesses Limited, the company behind it that registered Bitfilme.com.
Syndikus is also the director of Global Netcom, a German company that developed diallers for pornographic vendors.
German anti-dialler internet forums such as Computerbetrug.de (Computerfraud) and Dialerschutz.de (Dialler protection) have often issued warnings against these dialers, many of which are activated by closing a unwanted "pop-up" window. Not surprisingly, anti dialler sites urge victims to ignore bills they receive from rogue dialler companies. However, Syndikus argued that refusing to pay these bills is against the law.
Syndikus represents Firstway Medien GmbH, a German firm which released a hobbled version of the open source file sharing program eMule. The hacked eMule was disabled, and could only be activated once you paid for the product. Worse, the program couldn't be removed from Windows without corrupting the internet connection.
Earlier this year, Firstway asked Gravenreuth & Syndikus to issue to Marcus Falck - the owner of the German website eMule.de - a cease and desist letter, demanding that the website would give up its domain name. What was considered to be a free name - part of the open source project eMule - had been furtively trademarked by Firstway Medien.
Even more remarkable is the reputation of Syndikus's partner Günther Freiherr von Gravenreuth (real name: Günter Werner Dörr) who, according to his own biography, advised the European Institute for Computer Anti-Virus Research and German Association for Entertainment Software. von Gravenreuth was behind the much publicised Tanja campaign against software piracy.
He tricked mostly adolescent male computer users into sending a list of pirated software to a fictional girl named "Tanja", and subsequently dragged them to court. The teenagers received a cease and desist notice along with a request for payment, in most cases between €1,000 and €5,000. ®