Europol sends 'intelligence package' to gardaí as part of international investigation into underground paedophile network
- Over 360 people have been arrested across Europe
- At least 259 sexually abused children identified or rescued from their abusers outside of US
- Lead administrator of one of the world's largest sex abuse websites sentenced to 30 years
An intelligence package on an underground paedophile network has been sent to An Garda Síochána as part of an international probe.
Over 360 people have been arrested across Europe as part of the worldwide investigation and hundreds of sexually abused children have been identified and rescued.
Operation Pacifier is the "largest and more complex investigation" into child sex abuse websites ever undertaken, according to Europol.
The Europe-wide law enforcement agency confirmed that 368 suspected child abusers have been arrested or convicted in Europe in relation to the investigation.
Almost 900 people have been arrested worldwide.
The operation saw the lead administrator of Playpen, one of the world’s largest child sexual abuse websites on the Darknet with more than 150,000 users around the world, sentenced to 30 years in prison in North Carolina earlier this week.
The two other administrators of the site were each sentenced to 20 years behind bars.
Europol said it's role "was to crosscheck, analyse and complete the data received in order to identify offenders mainly located in Europe."
They confirmed that intelligence packages were "prepared and disseminated" to law enforcement authorities in countries including Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The investigation has so far resulted in 368 arrests or convictions in Europe, and 870 arrests or convictions worldwide.
At least 259 sexually abused children have been identified or rescued from their abusers outside of the US.
"Those individuals involved in the sexual abuse of children are becoming increasingly forensically aware and are actively using the most advanced forms of anonymisation and encryption to avoid detection," Steven Wilson, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, said.
"Law enforcement needs to be able to use proportionate means to tackle this threat to our children.
"The internet has no boundaries and does not recognise borders.
"We need to balance the rights of victims versus the right to privacy. If we operate 19th century legal principles then we are unable to effectively tackle crime at the highest level."
The European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos added; "The sexual exploitation of children is a heinous crime against every moral value in our societies, and it should never go unpunished.
"Online sexual child abuse is a fight that we must fight together, and I welcome the crucial transatlantic cooperation between the FBI and Europol in this operation. It is precisely by working together that we can make a difference, by protecting our children and punishing those who are behind this revolting crime."