Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of Kickass Torrents (KAT) has been arrested in Poland, and charged with copyright infringement of about $1bn worth of films, music, games and other protected content.
Although the Ukrainian was arrested in Poland, the US intends to launch a formal extradition bid so that he can face charges of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering. While the copyright charge has a maximum sentence of about 5 years, money laundering is more serious compared to the copyright charge, it has a maximum sentence of up to twenty years.
In a press release from the US Attorney’s Office, assistant attorney general Caldwell said, “Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials. In an effort to evade law enforcement, Vaulin allegedly relied on servers located in countries around the world and moved his domains due to repeated seizures and civil lawsuits. His arrest in Poland, however, demonstrates again that cybercriminals can run, but they cannot hide from justice.”
One would wonder how the torrent site raise funds discreetly, but according to an IRS agent’s estimated value, the site earned more than $16m per year in ad revenue from its 50 million monthly users. The agent on an undercover mission, purchased adverts on the site and discovered options ranging from $300 to $3,200 per day. He was then instructed to send payment to a variety of Eastern European banks with strict instructions not to mention KAT at any point during the transaction, this fake add included a link which appeared underneath the torrent download buttons for five days, and was enough to link KAT to a Latvian bank account, one that received €28 million ($31 million) in deposits — mainly from advertising payments — between August 2015 and March 2016. Other investigations that followed up led to the capture of 3o year old Artem Vaulin.
To make matters worse, Apple revealed a copy of Vaulin’s email account to the authorities which contains lots of incriminating information. Even though Vaulin is still awaiting trial, the press release reminds people that “the defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
KickassTorrents (KAT) is a website founded in 2008 that provides torrent files and magnet links to facilitate peer-to-peer file sharing using the BitTorrent protocol. As of November 2014, KAT became the most visited torrent directory in the world according to the site’s Alexa ranking. On 20 July 2016, the domain was seized by the United States government and was subsequently shut down.