Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The takeover: how police ended up running a paedophile site -- Toronto key

It was one of the world’s largest and most secure paedophile networks – an online space where tens of thousands traded horror.

The website dealt in abuse; video and images of children, swapped and boasted about on a dark-web forum, accessible only through an encrypted browser.

Membership was tightly managed. Quiet accounts raised suspicion and could be suddenly terminated. Those who stayed had to upload new material frequently. More than 45,000 people complied.

But what those thousands never realised, even as heavy users began to disappear, was that the site was being run by police.

For six months in 2014, inside a pale office block in the Australian city of Brisbane, an elite squad of detectives were administering the site: analysing images, monitoring conversations, connecting users with their crimes.

By the time they pulled the plug on the forum 85 children had been rescued and hundreds of people across the globe arrested.

Among them was Richard Huckle, a 30-year-old Briton living in Malaysia, one of the board’s most prolific members.

In June Huckle was sentenced to 22 life terms, one for each of the minors he was convicted of abusing. The children were mostly ethnic Indians from impoverished backgrounds, whose families’ trust he won by posing as a Christian missionary.

Police believe he had at least 169 other young victims. Huckle had diligently recorded their names in a ledger, detailing the acts he had performed with each one.

How he was tracked and arrested is a story of persistence, good fortune and an audacious half-year sting, which key figures inside the specialist police unit responsible, Taskforce Argos in Australia, have granted the Guardian access to share.

The loose thread, that once pulled, would unravel Huckle’s world, leads back five years to Toronto, and the warehouse headquarters of businessman Brian Way.  (more...)


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