NCA takes down dark web site linked to UK child sex abuse
Three hundred and thirty-seven suspects have been arrested globally in multi-agency operations sparked by a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation into one of the UK’s worst ever child sex offenders.
The arrests were made in 38 countries, including the UK, Ireland, the US, South Korea, Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic and Canada.
The site, ‘Welcome To Video’, was taken down by an international taskforce set up by the NCA and included the Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation in the US, the South Korean National Police and Germany’s Federal Criminal Police.
Run from South Korea, the site contained more than 250,000 videos featuring the sexual abuse of children and users had made more than one million downloads.
In the UK, 18 investigations were initiated from the intelligence and seven men have already been convicted – including one jailed for 22 years for raping a five-year-old boy and appearing on Welcome To Video sexually abusing a three-year-old girl.
The NCA uncovered Welcome To Video during its investigation into the geophysicist Dr Matthew Falder. In 2017, Falder admitted 137 offences, including encouraging child rape and sharing images of a newborn baby being abused. He is serving a 25-year jail sentence.
Officers from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit used specialist capabilities to identify that Welcome To Video was being run from South Korea by Jong Woo Son, aged 23. They also analysed cryptocurrency transactions to identify site users.
In March 2018, NCA officers travelled to South Korea and, in conjunction with IRS and HSI, advised police on their operational plan, helped with Son’s arrest and assisted with the server’s take down.
The NCA’s National Targeting Centre then developed intelligence on all UK suspects, preparing profiles and briefings for its operational teams and UK police forces.
Today (October 16), Son faced nine charges in the US relating to his running of the website. The South Korean national has already been convicted and jailed in his home country.
Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigations, said: “Dark web child sex offenders – some of whom are the very worst offenders – cannot hide from law enforcement. They’re not as cloaked as they think they are, they’re not as safe as they think they are.
“The NCA is relentless in pursuing them and we have specialist capabilities, which we use for all UK law enforcement, to unmask them and help take down sites like Welcome To Video.
“I’m immensely proud of the role we played in catching some very depraved and dangerous global offenders and for beginning the work that eventually caught Jong Woo Son.”
One UK case to come from Welcome To Video was that of Kyle Fox who was jailed for 22 years in March this year. Fox, from Surrey, admitted 14 charges against a five-year-old boy, including seven rapes, and five charges of sexual assault against a three-year-old girl. Footage of him abusing the girl was uploaded to Welcome To Video but Fox denied posting it.
Fox’s face was not visible in the footage but the NCA’s victim identification team were able to uncover his identity.
The NCA said child sexual abuse offending was increasing in severity, scale and complexity. It says it is now seeing a direct link between viewing abuse images and contact abuse, as well as offenders using the dark web and encryption to hide their activity and identifies.