International police operation busts child sex abuse ring with Bulgaria-based server
Bulgaria’s Cybercrime Department at the General Directorate Combating Organised Crime, supported by Europol, took down the servers of a website as part of an international operation against a child sex abuse ring, Interpol said on May 23.
The two-year international operation co-ordinated by Interpol has led to the rescue of 50 children, as well as the arrest and prosecution of child sex offenders in Thailand, Australia and the United States.
Operation Blackwrist, named after a bracelet worn by one of the offenders, was launched by Interpol in 2017 following the discovery of material depicting the abuse of 11 boys, all under 13 years old.
For years, the site had published new images weekly, with the abuser taking great care to avoid detection, often masking the children and leaving very few visual or audio clues, Interpol said.
Officers relied on the physical traits of the children to track their ongoing abuse, and reached out to the global police community for help.
In June 2017, Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations (DSI) took on the case, working in close collaboration with Interpol’s Liaison Bureau in Bangkok.
Investigators around the world also joined the effort to identify the 11 boys and find site administrators. The US’ Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) identified the website IP address and worked on establishing potential links to the US.
Bulgaria’s Cybercrime Department at the General Directorate Combating Organized Crime, supported by Europol, took down the website’s servers.
The Department of Internal Affairs in New Zealand deconflicted intelligence and compiled information packages on website users for Interpol member countries.
The US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children cross-checked e-mail addresses and provided additional intelligence.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and South Australian Police came on board when an IP address pointed to a location in Adelaide.
The website and its administrators sparked a series of investigations around the world, leading to further arrests in Thailand, Australia and the United States.
As police in nearly 60 countries examine referrals compiled by New Zealand, more arrests and rescues are expected, Interpol said.
Although police have removed 50 victims from harm, they believe an additional 100 more children have suffered abuse, and are currently working to identify those victims, the statement said.