Monday, 22 May 2017
900 suspected pedophiles arrested as ‘darknet’ child porn kingpin jailed for 30yrs
Nearly 900 members of a global ‘dark web’ pedophile ring sprawling Europe and the Americas have been arrested following a two-year investigation, the FBI and Europol reported after the website’s founder was handed a 30-year jail sentence. Shedding light on the scope of the operation which is still active, the FBI revealed that in the US alone, 350 arrests were made as part of a wide-ranging investigation into Playpen – a secret website that is being referred to as possibly the biggest child pornography online dump that ever existed.
The arrests and other law enforcement actions related to the investigation were carried out “in countries far and near”, including Turkey, Peru, Chile, Ukraine, Israel and Malaysia, according to the FBI. Europe accounts for the major share of arrests and convictions with 368 suspects being charged. A total of 870 arrests were made in connection with the case, according to Europol. Over 300 children who had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Playpen members have been identified or rescued.
EU Commissioner for the Security Union, Sir Julian King, said “a hugely significant blow has been struck against one of the most heinous of crimes, arguably the worst of all, thanks to the excellent transnational cooperation of Europol with the FBI and US Department of Justice, as well as other law enforcement agencies around the world.”
Playpen’s founder, Steven W. Chase, 58, was sentenced Monday to 30 years behind bars. The site he set up in August 2014 boasted some 150,000 users worldwide until it was taken down by the FBI following a controversial covert operation. The agency said it had uncovered the site almost immediately after it had been launched but lacked information to trace the location or identity of the site’s owner as it was rooted in the deep web, meaning the site was only accessible through special software such as Tor. Tor grants anonymity to its users and thereby is often described as a convenient platform for illicit activities, such as selling weapons, drugs or disseminating pornography.