Four Men Arrested for Using Dark Web “Child Porn” Forum

Authorities in Switzerland have arrested four suspected members of the dark web child abuse forum, “Elysium.” Europol has been coordinating the investigation between German authorities and Fedpol.

In 2017, the German Federal Criminal Police Office raided the home owned by the operator of Germany’s largest child pornography forum on the dark web. They arrested the forum owner and seized the encrypted computers that had been hosting the server. Since the arrest, the German Federal Criminal Police Office and other branches of law enforcement in Germany and Austria arrested members of Elysium. They used logs from the seized server and other pieces of revealing information to track down physical child abusers first. Even though the forum was for German speakers, law enforcement around the world started receiving information from the Elysium server. Working with that information, police forces in various countries have been arresting a small number of Elysium members.

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Looking only at arrest data, most Elysium members lived in Germany or Austria during the investigation into members of the forum. Since a German man owned and operated the forum, the forum appealed to pedophiles living in German-speaking countries. The number of suspects from German-speaking countries is not surprising. However, not all German-speakers live in Germany. And not every forum user spoke German. The German Federal Criminal Police Office recognized how significant the case was to German authorities. The forum was the first known German child pornography forum on the dark web and the majority of the forum’s users lived in Germany. Switzerland, while not one of the target countries, hosts a massive number of German speakers. German is one of the country’s native languages.

The Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) received information from Europol about four suspected Elysium members living in Switzerland. Europol received the information from German law enforcement. In most recent dark web cases involving international criminals, Europol has facilitated investigations between different countries. They worked with the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Central Office for the Suppression of Cybercrime since the very start of the investigation into Elysium and its members. They provided “analysis, coordination and exchange of operational information,” German authorities announced. In addition to Germany and Austria, Europol coordinated arrests of Elysium members in Italy, New Zealand, and Australia.

Florian Näf, a spokesperson for the Federal Office of Police, told reporters that Europol forwarded information about the suspects to Fedpol and that Fedpol, in turn, forwarded the information to the Cantonal Police in the Canton of Zurich, the Canton of Bern, and the Canton of Aargau. The Cantonal Police in those three cantons searched several residences in December 2018, looking for the pedophiles. However, the Fedpol spokesperson did not want to identify the suspected Elysium members or the police involved in the investigation. At the time of the announcement, the spokesperson had not announced the specific charges the suspects had allegedly committed. He only explained that Europol had sent information that identified all four suspects as members of the seized dark web forum.


The spokesperson said that an increasing number of criminals are switching from the surface web to the dark web for illegal activity. Näf said that pedophiles using the dark web was one of the most concerning problems; the number of convictions related to possession or distribution of child pornography increased by 40% in less than ten years. The spokesperson explained that many more pedophiles live in Switzerland and participate in the sharing of child abuse content, but the anonymity provided by the dark web prevents investigators from catching the suspects. “That’s why the number of unreported cases in connection with darknet offenses is very high,” Näf said.

In Germany, all four so-called “staff members” of the forum have appeared in court at least once. Prosecutors have accused one man of running the forum; another man allegedly built the forum; and two men allegedly moderated the forum. One of the alleged moderators also physically abused the daughter of another Elysium member. The hearings are expected to run through March 2019.

by: C. Aliens

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