An investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) into one of the UK’s worst-ever child sex offenders has led to the arrest of 337 suspects globally.
A series of multi-agency operations led to arrests being made in 38 countries including the UK, Ireland, USA, South Korea, Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the Czech Republic and Canada.
The dark web child abuse site, known as ‘Welcome To Video’, was taken down by an international task force set up by the NCA, including Homeland Security Investigations and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation in America, the South Korean National Police and Germany’s Federal Criminal Police.
Run from South Korea, the site contained more than 250,000 videos and users had made more than one million downloads. According to the NCA, the website monetised the sexual abuse of children and was one of the first to offer “sickening videos” for sale using the cryptocurrency bitcoin.
In the UK, 18 investigations were developed 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.
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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 (NCCU) 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 in taking down the dark web child abuse site.
The agency’s National Targeting Centre then developed intelligence on all UK suspects, preparing profiles and briefings for NCA operational teams and UK police forces. On the 16th of October 2019, Son was charged with nine counts in the USA relating to him running 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.”
The most heinous UK case to come from Welcome To Video resulted in Kyle Fox, aged 26, being 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 resolved his real-life identity.
A spokesperson for the NCA said: “The case illustrates what the NCA is seeing in child sexual abuse offending: increases in severity, scale and complexity.
“We’re 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.”