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Tech

How a British town became a hub for online porn

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Tech

How a British town became a hub for online porn

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COMING UP:How a British town became a hub for online porn

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00:00:01
>> Welcome to Consett, a small town in northern England that's become a hub for online porn and scam sites. Reuters data analysis revealing that more than 1,000 online businesses are based there. Diet pills, get rich quick schemes, and more. Our reporters set out to investigate, knocking on doors where the businesses are registered.
00:00:20
Few locals wanted to talk, some denied knowing they were named as directors. All the firms are linked to this man, Simon Dowson. He's behind an operation that sets up UK companies for overseas websites seen as high risk. Reuters reporter Alasdair Pal explains. Most of those companies, they find it hard to accept online payments if they're based abroad.
00:00:47
So that's where Simon Dowson comes in, he's what's called a company information agent. And what he did is he set up a network of directors in concert and they would effectively act as directors for these companies, providing a layer of secrecy for them.>> Dowson declined to talk to Reuters on camera, but he confirmed that he'd set up companies for a few thousand pounds per client.
00:01:10
He hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing. The directorships operate in a legally complex area. Some Reuters spoke with said they believed they were so called nominee directors, as in directors in name only. In Britain that title has no legal status. By law all directors have an obligation to certain duties, which include preparing accounts that give a transparent view of a company's dealings.
00:01:34
But if the Consett residents named as directors neglected those duties, they haven't been sanctioned for it. People all over Consett appear to be involved, about 400 in all. This map shows the location of registered directors. Reuters knocked on about 60 doors.>> Some of them had said that they had no knowledge of the companies.
00:01:54
It may just be that they forgot that they'd signed up to be directors, or it may be that someone else, possibly a family member had signed them up.>> The town was fertile territory for Dowson. It hit hard times when the local steel plant closed in 1980. As a result, many locals say they were ready to take the 50 to 150 pounds or so that Dowson paid to participants to sign up, then a few more pounds a month to forward mail to his offices.
00:02:21
A bold new source of income for this old steel town.