Major software pirates caught

A multimillion-euro software piracy ring has been broken following synchronized raids in Athens and London yesterday, Attica police said. Some 7,000 CD-ROMs containing illegal copies of software, a personal computer, three hard drives and a host of documents were seized from the home of a 50-year-old Greek in the Athens area. He was arrested on suspicion of being the head of a global gang that hacked into the programs and Internet sites of various companies and made pirate copies of expensive software. Police say it is the first case of its type in Greece and one of the biggest internationally that has been broken. The suspect, an unemployed polytechnic graduate, was not named. The man allegedly worked with an accomplice from London, who was picked up by British police yesterday morning. Since 2002, the pair are suspected of having sold, for between 5 and 10 percent of their price, illegal copies of mechanical design programs, used mainly in the motor and aviation industries, and which retail at between 8,000 and 50,000 euros. It is thought that criminals in other countries may have been involved as well. Officers at the Electronic Crime Department of Attica were first put onto the group after a tip-off from a multinational software company which claimed to have suffered lost earnings of 280 million euros as a result of the alleged crime. Investigators said the Greek hacker had managed to break the encryption on hundreds of other types of software, which he then copied and sold. The suspects are thought to have attracted clients by advertising in newspapers and magazines.