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Investigation of "dark web" child porn site leads to 337 arrests in 38 countries

U.K. and U.S. authorities investigating a "dark web" child pornography site run from South Korea on Wednesday announced the arrest of 337 suspects in 38 countries. Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) said the "Welcome to Video" site contained 250,000 videos that were downloaded a million times by users across the world.

"The website monetised the sexual abuse of children and was one of the first to offer sickening videos for sale using the cryptocurrency bitcoin," the NCA said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Justice said the site operated "the largest child sexual exploitation market by volume of content" when it was taken down. It operated on the so-called "dark web," which can only be accessed by special software and is widely used to traffic various illegal content and products.

Arrests were made in 38 countries including the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, South Korea, Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic and Canada. 

The NCA said seven men have already been convicted in Britain since the first suspect was arrested in 2017. One man "was jailed for 22 years for raping a five-year-old boy and appearing on Welcome To Video sexually abusing a three-year-old girl."

Collaboration between global law enforcement agencies was sparked by the British investigation into a British scientist for child sex offences, according to the NCA, which deals with serious and organised crime, as well as cybercrime.

Matthew Falder was sentenced to 25 years in jail in 2017 after admitting 137 counts of online abuse, including the encouragement of child rape and even the abuse of a baby.

The Justice Department indicted the site's alleged operator -- identified as 23-year-old South Korean national Jong Woo Son -- on nine counts.

"Dark net sites that profit from the sexual exploitation of children are among the most vile and reprehensible forms of criminal behavior," said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski.

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