A combined police operation involving Europol and Interpol has “disrupted” a network described as using WhatsApp and the dark web to distribute images of child sexual exploitation. Among the 39 people arrested is a Portuguese national, reports RTP. Operation Tantalio, as it has been dubbed, “involved co-ordinated action in Germany, Spain and Portugal as well as several South American countries including Argentina, Chile and Ecuador”, the BBC adds.
“The investigation began in Spain, with police discovering dark web sites directing users to private WhatsApp groups last year”.
Research “then verified these groups were used to share illegal images”.
House searches conducted during the arrests have led to the seizure of “hundreds of devices containing several terabytes of child exploitation material”, and Spanish police have added that “this included more than 360,000 files”.
Efforts are now being made by police to identify any child victims.
According to RTP, the images involved babies as young as two months old up to children around the age of eight.
"These offenders are pushing the boundaries of modern technologies to try to avoid being caught by law enforcement," Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, told the BBC, adding that the arrests were an "excellent example of global law enforcement cooperation, led by the Spanish National Police.
"We need to continue to combine our joint resources and skills to tackle this threat to our children and bring these offenders to justice," he added.
Further details of the Portuguese man arrested have not yet been revealed.