German prosecutors have charged four citizens in connection with one of the largest known child-pornography rings on the internet, which is said to have had more than 400,000 international members before it was shut down last month.
Authorities in Frankfurt say they’ve arrested three administrators and one highly active user from “Boystown,” a platform for sharing explicit images of children in the dark corners of the internet.
Prosecutors described Boystown in a statement as “one of the world’s biggest child pornography darknet platforms,” and one that had been operational since at least 2019.
Members used the site to share explicit photos and images of children and toddlers from all over the world, prosecutors said. The site included depictions of “most severe sexual abuse of toddlers,” and the majority of the victims were boys, authorities said.
Germany’s federal investigative police force led the investigation over several months with help from Europol and law enforcement agencies in Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, Sweden and Australia.
The three main suspects in the case were all German men aged 40, 49 and 58, though the oldest suspect has been living in Paraguay for many years, prosecutors said. Germany has since put in a request to extradite him from Paraguay.
The suspects allegedly worked as administrators on the site, and would routinely help members evade law enforcement in order to access the illegal and abusive content, prosecutors said.
A fourth German suspect, 64, was arrested for allegedly being one of the most active users on the site. Authorities say he was responsible for more than 3,500 posts on the platform.
The site was taken off the darknet in mid-April after a series of police raids, officials said. Police also shut down chatrooms associated with the site.
“This investigative success has a clear message: Those who assault the weakest aren’t safe anywhere,” German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in a statement. “That’s what investigators work for day and night, online and offline, globally.
“We’ll do everything within our power to protect the kids from these disgusting crimes,” he added.
The suspects’ names were not released as per Germany’s privacy laws.
—With files from The Associated Press
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