Police Team Takes Down Child Pornography Ring in Western Balkans
Western Balkan law enforcement joined together in a regional operation against child sexual exploitation, identifying 39 suspected child abusers and rescuing two of their victims.
According to Slovenian police, which led the operation, the probe uncovered multiple crimes, including exhibiting, producing, possessing and transmitting pornographic material depicting sexual abuse of minors.
The police said that the image and video files feature youngsters being sexually assaulted by adults and minors being nude on tape.
Slovenian police further stated that five suspects used cryptocurrencies in their criminal acts, and that they also operated on the darknet.
The operation, codenamed Mozaik, sought to identify and arrest people who used internet forums and messaging apps to share and distribute child sexual abuse material. The European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol, which coordinated the operation, announced the action on Monday, Nov 20, which coincided with Universal Children’s Day.
From Nov. 6 to 17, law enforcement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Hungary conducted 41 raids in response to investigations into the distribution of images and videos showing child sexual abuse, according to Europol.
The operation was part of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT), an integrated approach to EU internal security. Police confiscated more than 200 items including photos or videos of child sexual abuse, as well as computers, cell phones, computer servers, and memory cards.
According to Europol, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre have joined forces within EMPACT to create an expert network in the Western Balkans to strengthen “cross-border cooperation in the fight against child sexual abuse.”
Europol also recalled the “Say No!” preventive campaign, which features a 10-minute film depicting two teens, a boy and a girl, being exploited online for financial gain by a criminal organization and by an individual online sexual offender looking for more sexual content.
The movie, which is accessible in 29 European languages, aims to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and offers tips on how to report such crimes to law authorities and how to prevent being a victim in the first place.