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Touts jailed for fraud over ticket reselling ordered to pay £6.2m

Two ticket touts who were jailed for fraud related to large-scale ticket reselling have been ordered to pay £6.2m in a confiscation order.

Peter Hunter, 53, and David Smith, 68, were sentenced to prison in February 2020 after a three-month trial in which the married couple were found guilty of fraudulent trading and possessing an article for fraud.

Their case was the first successful prosecution related to large-scale ticket fraud. Together the couple ran BZZ Limited, which they used to buy and resell hundreds of tickets at inflated prices for concerts by musicians including Ed Sheeran, Madness, and McBusted, as well as shows such as the West End play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

They benefited from their crimes by a total of £8.8m between May 2010 and December 2017, including a net profit of £3.5m in the last 32 months of the fraud. The court on Wednesday gave them three months to pay back the £6.2m or face an additional eight years’ imprisonment, according to National Trading Standards, which carried out the investigation into the fraud.

Hunter was first exposed by a Guardian investigation into touts and their relationship with “secondary ticketing” websites, which allow buyers to resell tickets for events. National Trading Standards began investigating the pair several months later.

Hunter, who was sentenced to four years in prison, and Smith, who was sentenced to 30 months, were found to have used dishonest and fraudulent tactics to purchase multiple tickets from primary ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster, Eventim and AXS. They used tactics such as using other people’s names, addresses and emails to evade detection systems, and automated bots to speed the purchase of tickets in bulk.

They also engaged in “speculative selling”, listing tickets for sale that they did not own at hugely inflated prices, before trying to find them at cheaper prices to make a profit.

Ruth Andrews, National Trading Standards’ regional investigations manager, said: “Today’s result concludes a landmark case that demonstrates once and for all that dishonestly buying large quantities of tickets and reselling them at inflated prices is an unacceptable, illegal and fraudulent practice.

“All too often fans looking to buy tickets to sport events, music concerts and other high-profile events find that official tickets sell out in minutes before reappearing on secondary ticketing sites at vastly inflated prices. This can have a significant financial impact on consumers and I hope this groundbreaking case helps drive long-term changes in the secondary ticketing market.”

Hunter and Smith appealed against their convictions, but they were rejected by the court of appeal in November 2021.

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