London Picks Up Russian Internet Agent

Officers from London’s Metropolitan Police have shut down a cell operated by illegal Russian music download Web site and captured one of its agents.

A British Phonographic Industry statement says an unnamed 25-year-old male from Bow has been arrested following a pan-European investigation it set up with fellow counter agents from the International Federation Of Phonographic Industries.

The suspect is allegedly’s U.K.-based European agent, facilitating the sale of digital downloads by advertising and selling vouchers through auction sites such as eBay and the Russian firm’s site.

The vouchers contained a secret code that allowed U.K. and European consumers to access and download music illegally from

Charging £10 per voucher, the accused was believed to be taking payment from European customers and transferring the cash into various offshore accounts operated by the site’s Russian owners.

Acting under Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006, legislation introduced in January to combat online breaches of copyright, the police seized computer equipment and paperwork for further investigation.

Early indications suggest the pirate operation may have generated criminal proceeds for the Russian Web site running into the tens of thousands of pounds.

Despite’s claim that it pays record companies and artists, it has no permission from record companies to sell downloads in the U.K. The site has been illegally undercutting legitimate services such as iTunes, Napster 2.0 and HMV Digital by not compensating the artists and record companies concerned.

Online payment companies such as PayPal and major credit card companies including MasterCard and Visa have all withdrawn their payment facilities from because of its flagrant copyright infringement.

Apart from any proceedings resulting from the U.K. raid, the site also faces a raft of legal actions from the international music industry, including ongoing criminal proceedings in Russia and civil claims in the U.S. and France.

Already there has been a court injunction against the site in Germany, and the shutdown and criminal investigation of the portal in Italy. A court order requiring ISPs to block access to is already in place in Denmark.