This is how cops took down a child porn ring in Taiwan

The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Tens of thousands of child porn photos. Thousands of videos. Half a million New Taiwan dollars. That’s what authorities turned up in a series of countrywide raids in May and earlier this month. It was the result of a joint Criminal Investigation Bureau and local police investigation that had started over six months earlier — and at a much smaller scale.

A Facebook Post In September last year, a user named “Zheng Xing-tai” posted nude photos of a minor to that same girl’s Facebook page. The images had been photographed by the girl herself, but she had not shared them on Facebook or given them out to “Zheng.” Soon after, a user with a similar username — likely the same person — sent the victim a private Facebook message, telling her that if she didn’t reply, he would publicly post more indecent photos of her. This was more than a bid to harass or embarrass the user. It was intimidation.

Blackmail Although the suspect’s exact motives in this case are unclear, his tactics are common among pedophiles and sexual predators in general. Such people obtain or claim to have obtained private material that a victim doesn’t wish to be released, often intimate photos or videos. They use this leverage to force a victim to perform lude acts on webcam or to meet them in person for sex. In this case, the girl refused to be cowed and reported the user to the Shilin police branch in Taipei. Officers there launched an investigation but couldn’t determine who was behind the Facebook accounts. In November, they sought assistance from the Criminal Investigation Bureau, which put its Ninth Investigation Brigade on the case.

More Than One Man Over the next few months, the bureau uncovered much more than a lone Facebook user trying to blackmail vulnerable minors. It connected the Facebook accounts with multiple people around the country suspected of uploading child porn to cloud hosting sites. These services allow users to upload files, including multimedia content. Access to the files can be restricted to those only with a direct link. They then shared the links on illicit forums in both Taiwan and abroad. All told, the ring comprised six men operating around the country, including in Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung and New Taipei. The bureau contacted police in each of these locations and started working with them to round up the suspects. A series of searches of the six suspects’ homes were conducted on May 2, May 3, June 3 and June 7.

What They Found Among the items seized during the raids were five computers and three phones. They contained 401.1 gigabytes of child porn, comprising thousands of videos and tens of thousands of images. Authorities said the material appeared to include 52 child victims, all female. The origin of the content is unclear. The files likely came from a variety of sources — some hacked from underage users’ computers, some obtained from elsewhere online, some even created by the suspects themselves. The authorities also found three bank account passbooks and three debit cards, which reportedly revealed that the suspects had received roughly NT$500,000 in revenue from advertising displayed alongside their content on the file-sharing websites. The case has been sent to the Public Prosecutors Office. The other suspects, all men, are surnamed Zheng, aged 40; Zhang, 24; Bao, 22; Gao, 26; Yang, 32; and Zheng, 27.