The arrests came after Europol and Belgian authorities raided a house under Operation GARGAMEL.
Last month HackRead.com reported about a worldwide police operation against child pornography content sites that led to the seizing of DarkScandals and the arrest of its administrator Mr. Dark. The website was reportedly offering over 2,000 images and videos of objectionable content including real footage of violent rape, blackmailing, and child abuse material.
Dutch and US law enforcement authorities arrested the 32-year old DarkScandals’ admin on March 9, from Barendrecht, the Netherlands. The operation was supervised by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) in collaboration with law enforcement and intelligence agencies from the Netherlands, Germany, and the USA.
Now, there is another major breakthrough in Europol’s fight against online child abuse content. According to the latest press release from Europol, another globally operating network of child exploiters has been busted by law enforcement authorities from around the world. The gang network was spread in over 40 countries.
The authorities were tipped by an investigation report from Belgian East Flanders Federal Judicial Police. Reportedly, during a house search, Belgian police discovered more than 9 million video footage and images of child sexual abuse involving thousands of children from different parts of the world. A majority of the content was unique for law enforcement as they had never seen it circulating on the web.
Since it involved no less than 15 TB of files and many contacts via the dark web, it was necessary to expand the initial research team and start an international collaboration, Belgian Police said in a press release.
Operation GARGAMEL was launched right away with the support of Europol. The operation hunted for the culprits within and outside Europe. The seized images and video footage helped Europol’s Victim Identification Task Forces in the identification of suspects and victims involved.
The task forces so far have identified 30 suspects and 70 children whereas the Belgian Federal Judicial Police has identified 60 suspects, out of whom 24 are Belgian and four suspects have been sentenced by a Belgian court already. Belgian police also identified 40 victims. Thus, in total 110 victims and 90 suspects have been identified under Operation GARGAMEL.
Through the colleagues of Europol, who already had considerable expertise in child abuse, it was determined that the digital material found was largely unseen. This amount of images and the small circle in which they were shared has never been seen before. These included images of the abuse of babies, from just a few months old, to the abuse of adolescents from 12 to 13 years old.
Some of the suspects have been sentenced in their respective countries. The operation is still active and we can expect more arrests and rescues as Europol has sent intelligence packages and Belgian police’s investigative reports to law enforcement agencies in over 40 countries to identify more members of the child abuse gang.
It is worth noting that Europol along with authorities around the world have been fighting online child abuse for years and have shown promising results in tackling the issue.
Just last year in October, authorities in Germany raided, busted and seized a massive data bunker called “Cyberbunker 2.0” used by dark web criminals to run drugs, explicit child content and other illegal activities.
The data center was being run inside a former NATO bunker in the town of Traben-Trarbach in Western Germany. In October last year, authorities were able to seize the dark web’s largest child abuse arresting 338 suspects and rescuing 32 minors.