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Touts ‘motivated by greed’ face trial over multi-million pound scam

Two ticket resellers who allegedly used bots to harvest and resell passes for £11m have been labelled as “dishonest fraudsters motivated by greed,” in court.

Peter Hunter and David Smith, who traded as Ticket Wiz and BZZ, went on trial at Leeds Crown Court on Thursday. They have been accused of fraudulent trading in relation to the resale of tickets for the likes of Ed Sheeran, big sporting events, and West End shows such as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Lawyers acting for National Trading Standards argued that the defendants tried to “milk profit” from genuine fans by using scalper bots, as well as a specialist browser called Insomniac, that allowed them to masquerade as multiple consumers.

“An inevitable consequence of their behaviour was that they reduced the number of face-value tickets that were available to purchase,” said Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, according to the Guardian. “The two defendants were internet ticket touts and were also dishonest fraudsters motivated by greed.

“That greed caused them to exploit the love and passion that many people have for their favourite music acts.

“The defendants were competing with consumers to book tickets that should have been available for those consumers to purchases at face value with the intention of milking those consumers for profit by offering the tickets for sale at inflated prices.

“An inevitable consequence of the defendants’ behaviour was to reduce the number of face value tickets that were available for consumers to purchase.

“That made the fraudulent purchase of tickets a double win for the defendants because it manipulated the market against consumers by reducing the number of face value tickets available and driving up demand and therefore prices of tickets on the secondary ticketing websites.

“This was a multimillion-pound business the defendants were running from their home in London.”

According to the lawyer’s findings, the alleged touts spent more than £4m on primary ticket sites between June 2015 and December 2017

The pair bought the majority of their tickets on AXS, followed by Ticketmaster, the prosecutor said, adding that more than £1m was spent with both firms.

In the same period, the pair sold £10.8m of tickets on secondary sites, including Viagogo, StubHub, GetMeIn! and Seatwave.

Both defendants deny fraudulent trading and possessing an article for fraud. The case continues.

Image: Eva Rinaldi