According to the Public Prosecutor in Hannover, a lengthy investigation into a darknet child abuse forum has ended successfully. The investigation into the forum and its owner, that is. German authorities have pulled the forum from the darknet and arrested one of the site’s owners and a technical administrator. The investigation into users of the site and additional admins is ongoing, officials said.
In the spring of 2017, an unidentified civilian sent Hannover authorities a tip about the child abuse forum. The police said the tipster had spotted the site’s owner mention something in the site’s chat function about Hannover. Whatever the site owner said made the tipster believe that the site owner actually lived in Hannover. The police, upon receiving the information from the tipster, opened an investigation into the Hannover pedophile. They did not confirm the information provided by the tipster, though. That never had a chance.
Apparently the darknet site allowed users to easily arrange meetings for child abuse or whatever else a group of pedophiles would do. In this case, the site members in Germany had planned—or had talked about making plans—to meet in or near Hannover. Authorities have pointed to the meeting plans as the downfall of the forum and arrest of a 45-year-old and a 50-year-old.
The 50-year-old, authorities reported, functioned as the site’s administrator and shared child abuse content as well. Police have found evidence that the man worked alongside other administrators who may have lived outside of Germany and possibly in the United States. At some point during the extensive investigation, the state police departments of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia aided Hannover authorities in identifying the two suspects.
They caught a 45-year-old in Hesse who worked as one of the site’s technical admins. While he apparently had no role in site ownership, he had worked for the site’s admins for nearly two years. The site itself is a little older than two years old. Both the technical admin and forum owner have admitted their involvement. The Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that both men currently face prison sentences of up to 10 years in length. However, they could be held responsible for any human trafficking that forum members arranged through the forum.
Investigators have pulled the site offline but have maintained access to the content on the site. This includes private messages, chats, and all pictures and videos. A police spokesperson said that even though the darknet masks the identities of users, “this investigation shows that the investigators are not completely working with their hands tied.” They are currently searching the data on the servers for information pointing towards the identities of other forum members.
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