Italian authorities have closed down Colombo-BT.org, the country's largest BitTorrent tracker site, the IFPI reported today.

The closure follows an extensive investigation by the Guardia di Finanza (fiscal police), which worked in tandem with the IFPI-affiliated anti-piracy organization FPM.

Colombo-BT.org claimed more than 400,000 registered users and boasted over 800,000 unique user accesses a month. Its system provided access to an estimated 390,000 music files and 500,000 movie files.

Investigators were able to track down the three Italian males who ran the system, in spite of the fact that they used nicknames and operated via a service provider that was registered in the Czech Republic. The three, who received on-line donations from users, have been charged with copyright infringement and face up to three years in prison, in addition to hefty fines.

In a statement FPM and FIMI president Enzo Mazza says: "Colombo-BT.org was Italy's version of The Pirate Bay. Its operators deliberately facilitated the availability of copyright-infringing content to line their own pockets. This action by the fiscal police sends a strong message that Italy will not tolerate serious on-line music piracy: criminals looking for get-rich-quick schemes should consider other options."

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