The Hague, 7 May 2015
Following the breaking up of a unique worldwide network of paedophiles, the trial of the main coordinator has begun in Sweden. The trial is expected to continue until July. Producers of child abuse material were identified in the Czech Republic; the trial of these suspects has not yet been scheduled.
The network was dismantled and the ongoing sexual exploitation of at least 75 girls stopped following intensive international cooperation involving at least 13 countries. At least five photographers producing child abuse material were arrested. Their cameras, computers, hard drives and other digital devices were seized. The main coordinator of the network, a Swedish citizen, was identified and arrested in Sweden.
A number of customers ordering and buying child abuse material directly from professional photographers or via the coordinator in Sweden have also been arrested. One of the main customers was identified and arrested in Spain.
Children as young as seven were the victims of this network. In Sweden, the authorities identified 13 of the 24 children involved. In the part of the investigation carried out by the Czech authorities, at least 65 children were involved, all of whom have been identified.
The main challenge in this case has been to obtain the images. The national authorities managed to do so using payments, chats and e-mail conversations to gather evidence and by breaking the encryption of computers. Around one million images were found in the possession of the Swedish coordinator, 200 000 of which were custom-made.
The successful outcome was only possible through the close judicial cooperation enabled by Eurojust’s support, which included encouraging cooperation and enabling legal understanding, and funding for travel to five Eurojust coordination meetings and funding for a joint investigation team (JIT). The JIT members were Sweden, the Czech Republic and Spain. Investigations in the involved countries took place over almost two years.
In Sweden, the investigation focused on two crimes: aggravated child pornography and participation in the aggravated sexual exploitation of children for pornographic purposes. In the Czech Republic, criminal charges were brought for trafficking in human beings and severe abuse of children for posing sexually.
In Spain, an analysis of the computer devices seized from the suspect, revealed about 20,000 images and 1,000 videos containing child pornography, and about 1,500 scripts for producing this type of material. Many of these scripts were sent by the Spanish suspect so that the girls especially chosen by him could pose in the way indicated in the script. Some of these girls were less than thirteen years old.
The Spanish suspect will be accused for three crimes; using children for making child pornography and production of child pornography aggravated by some girls being under thirteen years of age, distribution of child pornography, and membership of a criminal association or group.
The joint investigation revealed that the customers of the pornographic materials ordered specific custom-made sets of photographs and videos. Payments were made by the customer to the coordinator in Sweden, who transferred money to the photographers in the Czech Republic, Russia and Kazakhstan. This case is an excellent example of cooperation with third States. The child abuse material was then exchanged in an encrypted format using cloud services. Due to encrypted communication methods and the security awareness of the suspects, close judicial cooperation between the national authorities was crucial in identifying possible mistakes and weaknesses of the suspects in the planning of their criminal activities.
Mr Leif Görts, National Member for Sweden at Eurojust, commented: ‘The unique feature of this case is that the producers, buyers and customers of child abuse material have been arrested and the exploitation of the children stopped. The identification of the victims will also enable them to request compensation. This investigation would never have succeeded without the intensive cooperation enabled by Eurojust and supported by Europol.’
A joint investigation team (JIT) is a team consisting of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement authorities, established for a fixed period and a specific purpose by way of a written agreement between the involved States, to carry out criminal investigations in one or more of the involved States.
Coordination meetings bring together both judicial and law enforcement authorities from Member States and third States, allowing effective cross-border investigations. Approximately 200 coordination meetings take place annually at Eurojust.