Authorities from the United States have arrested and charged a Ukrainian man who is thought to the mastermind behind Kickass Torrents, the world’s largest online file sharing site.
Artem Vaulin, 30, was arrested in Poland on Wednesday and stands accused of copyright infringement and money laundering, with US authorities claiming he is responsible for the illegal distribution of $1 billion worth of pirated material over an eight year period.
US officials say that Kickass Torrents has a net worth of $54 million and operates in 28 languages.
In recent years it had replaced Pirate Bay as the biggest source of pirated material.
According to a statement by the US Justice Department, Kickass Torrents is the 69th most visited website in the world and is the online home of pirated films, music, tv shows and other electronic content.
“Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $US1 billion of copyrighted materials,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell.
“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.”
US officials have said they were able to track Vaulin from transaction records in his iCloud account which Apple provided to law enforcement agencies.
The authorities in the US will now seek to extradite Vaulin so he can face charges in a federal court in Chicago, which is where one of its servers is said to be located.
Kickass Torrents had previously been banned in a number of countries including the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Malaysia and Italy but would often move domains to avoid being blocked
If convicted, Vaulin could face up to 20 years in jail for money laundering, while infringement of copyright carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in jail.