337 arrested in global child porn probe
WASHINGTON (AFP) — International law enforcement authorities announced Wednesday that a global investigation into child pornography sold for bitcoin on the underground internet had reaped 337 arrests and the shutdown of the dark web’s most notorious pedophile site.
Authorities from the United States, Britain, South Korea and other countries said they had rescued at least 23 minor victims of sexual exploitation who were often video-recorded by abusers who then sold the videos on the now-shuttered “Welcome to Video” site on the darknet.
The website sold the videos to users for bitcoin, which makes it extremely difficult to track the buyer.
From June 2015, when “Welcome to Video” started up, to March 2018, the website received at least 420 bitcoin virtual currency — around $370,000 at the time of the payments — in at least 7,300 transactions, the U.S. Justice Department said in an indictment.
The server, which had about 250,000 videos, was seized by U.S., British and South Korean police on March 5, 2018 and the operator, 23-year-old Son Jongwoo was arrested and jailed in Korea.
Since then hundreds of users from 12 countries have been tracked down and arrested.
On Wednesday, U.S. authorities unsealed a U.S. indictment of Son as well as announcing the seizure of virtual currency accounts of 24 people in five countries that had been “used to fund the website and promote the exploitation of children.”
The collaboration between global law enforcement agencies was sparked by the British investigation into a British scientist for child sex offenses, according to Britain’s National Crime Agency.