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Nine arrests in raid against copyright organization

SGAE head Teddy Bautista suspected of diverting funds

The chairman of Spain's copyright management organization, the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE), was detained on Friday along with a further eight people on suspicion of involvement in a scheme to divert tens of thousands of euros through companies that provided non-existent services.

Civil Guard officers spent the entire morning on Friday searching SGAE headquarters in downtown Madrid, as well as 17 other businesses and private homes. By the evening, they had announced the arrest of chairman Teddy Bautista, along with the other suspects.

José Luis Rodríguez Neri, director general of Sociedad Digital de Autores de España (SDAE), which is fully controlled by SGAE, is being charged with fraud, misappropriation of funds and disloyal administration in a case that is being handled by the High Court.

The preliminary investigation indicates that Neri as well as several of his relatives and close friends, may have made money unlawfully through a company called Microgénesis, a consulting firm controlled by Neri and SDAE's main contractor.

Bautista, who personally appointed Neri, has absolute control over the group's affairs, leading police to believe that he must have been aware of what was going on. The investigation was triggered by a complaint filed in 2007 against SGAE by several internet, computer and restaurant business associations.

This is not the first time that SGAE has come under fire. Known primarily for collecting fees on behalf of Spanish musicians and publishers, the society has been often accused of exceeding its remit by going as far as to infiltrate private weddings to check whether fees had been paid for the music being played at the banquet. SGAE's "digital canon" - a blank media tax on digital devices such as CD players or music-enabled cellphones - has been extremely unpopular among the Spanish public.