Norway Busted Massive a Darknet Child Porn Ring and Seized 150TB of Pictures and Videos

Norwegian officials announced the bust of Norway’s largest child-abuse ring wherein police identified 51 suspects and seized 150 terabytes of child porn. Officials spoke about a new branch of law enforcement focused on darknet crime as well as the name of the operation—Operation Darkroom.

Hilde Reikrås, head of the taskforce responsible for the takedown and Operation Darkroom, announced that 20 of the 51 suspects were arrested in the Western Police District. The remaining suspects are in custody throughout Norway. An unspecified number of suspects resided overseas; Reikrås said that the proper international authorities had been notified.

Police are still in the process of investigating additional Norwegian suspects, another official said. nedlasting.jpg

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Some of the suspects police arrested were prominent public figures. Two men were politicians—one former and one current. A teacher who dealt with children on a daily basis was also arrested along with a notable lawyer. Names were not revealed. However, NRK, a local TV and radio broadcasting company reached out and spoke with one of the politician’s lawyers. The lawyer, according to NRK, said that the politician acknowledged that he committed a crime; but he denied sharing child pornograhy. He claimed that he had used drugs instead.

The police would not reveal names of anyone involved for the sake of the investigation’s integrity. One of the politicians has been cooperating with police and has been since he was initially arrested, authorities announced.

A police officer was also charged in connection with the case but was not involved to the degree that many others were, Reikrås said.

Reikrås said that all the suspects, both under investigation and already in custody, were men. They were highly intelligent, for the most part. Their IT skills were significantly above average, she added.

The leading prosecutor in the case, Janne Ringset Helme, added that the men used encryption and anonymity to cover their tracks on the darknet. From what she could tell, she said, all members of the site met on the darknet child porn/abuse site and had no connection with each other in person.

Material seized by police was greater than what police standardly considered child porn; the stereotypical movies and pictures were certainly prevalent, she said. However, some of the worst content came from the chats between the men.

“The material [videos and pictures] shows including penetration of toddlers, children being tied, children who have sex with animals and children who have sex with other children,” said Reikrås.

However, the chats spoke of planned child abuse, Helme added. One of the men spoke about his pregnant girlfriend; he planned to abuse the child once he/she was born. Others talked about about the acts they wanted to perform on their own children and some ultimately uploaded videos of the acts being performed.

The investigation started in 2015 when a 22-year-old man was arrested for sexual abuse crimes. Police seized a significant amount of digital child-porn content from the suspect’s computers and subsequently discovered a network where he viewed and shared similar content.

Police dug deeper into the network and realized the case was much larger than initially believed. That realization was when “Operation Darkroom” was established and a team was developed to tackle child molestation—specifically the molestation published on the internet.

The National Criminal Investigation Service worked closely with the Operation Darkroom investigators, “both in cases and method development,” police said.

Operation Darkroom utilized some of the same tactics Taskforce Argos employed during the takedown of The Love Zone, another child pornograohy website on the darknet. Individuals were arrested quickly and covertly in order to prevent other members of the network from destroying evidence.

Investigators, according to officials at the press event, now believe another child pornography network is currently running inside Norway. Many of the arrested men have ties to the second network and possibly several more international networks, beyond the additional one police are aware of.

Darknet or deepweb child porn busts have been occurring frequently, as of late. Operation Pacifier resulted in the destruction of PlayPen and Taskforce Argos took down The Love Zone; both operations identified suspects worldwide and many are still being convicted to this day.

Operation Darkroom’s case is still ongoing and many are likely to be arrested in Norway, according to police. International suspects may be arrested soon too, depending on how the case is handled by relevant authorities. The maximum penalty, in Norway, for these crimes is currently 15 years in prison.

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