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Police suspect Finns of role in violent international child porn ring

The victims were all boys aged between six and 15, whose parents had allowed them to spend time with acquaintances they believed were trustworthy.

NBI lead investigator Sanna Springare (right). Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva
Yle News

The National Bureau of Investigation suspects five Finnish citizens of involvement in an extensive child sexual abuse network. Police believe that the suspects engaged in producing material depicting violent child sexual abuse in Finland that was shared live online to other members of the network abroad.

"A special feature [of the case] has been violence and child harm, which has played a central role [in the material]. Although we are investigating sexual offences, this is a case of violence, its glorification and receiving sexual gratification from it," said lead investigator Sanna Springare.

Springare described the ringleader of the group as a man who had held a prominent position in society. All five suspects are men.

Police suspect that the case involves six victims who were all boys ranging in age from six to 15 years old at the time the suspected offences occurred. The suspected crimes were believed to have been committed between 2004 and 2018 and police believe that some of the victims knew each other.

Four of the Finnish suspects had been in police custody at some point, but that is no longer the case. According to the NBI, the men were released due to reasons having to do with the investigation as well as the length of the probe. In the case of the ringleader, his detention had lasted around 12 months.

Police pointed to an exceptional amount of evidence seized in connection with the case. They now have in their possession 138 electronic devices and the ringleader alone had been holding more than 400 hours of illegal video material. Altogether law enforcement officials had seized 96 terabytes of material. NBI investigators speculated that scope of the material confiscated was equivalent to more than 30 million photos, assuming that the size of an average photo is around three megabytes.

However most of the material seized was in video, with images of the Finnish victims among the files.

Parents trusted suspects with their kids

Police are investigating the cases as aggravated child sexual abuse, aggravated rape, aggravated dissemination of indecent images of children, illegal possession of many such images, drug offences and viewing content featuring indecent images of children.

The total number of charges under consideration is 22, but they involve 70 offences altogether. Investigators noted however that the statute of limitations on some of the offences has expired.

"In its mildest form, the abuse in Finland occurred as showing adult pornography to children. In the worst cases it involved the rape of children for 10 hours while they were drugged with narcotics," Springare explained.

Investigators said that in some cases the young victims had been drugged with amphetamines. "They [the victims] were found through their [the suspects'] ties to various acquaintances," Springare explained.

"The suspects were considered to be very reliable. In this way, parents for example ventured to leave their children in the hands of these people who were later revealed to be criminal suspects," she added.

The precise nature of the offences has to some extent been sealed. According to the NBI some of the suspected crimes took place in a very small municipality so the location of the place has also been kept under wraps to protect the identity of the victims.

Police have so far completed their investigation and referred the cases for consideration of charges.

Content live-streamed from Finland

The investigations probed an extensive child pornography ring that involved the production of live streamed content in Finland that was then followed in 17 countries. According to the NBI the countries involved were European and included other western states.

Springare said that members of the network have received video content and also produced material for the group. Some of the material streamed to Finland was extremely violent in nature and involved so-called snuff films, in which the victims were killed. Some of the photo and video material contained features of devil worship, Nazism and various fetishes, investigators added.

The lead investigator said that police have not sought the extradition of suspects from other countries to Finland. "Sentencing in many other countries is tougher than in Finland, so we hope that the target countries will do their part," Springare noted.

None of the victims had alerted the authorities about the abuse they suffered. Police tracked down the victims and suspects on the basis of the material that came their way. Finnish authorities launched an investigation into the suspected offences in 2017 after receiving a tip-off from foreign officials.

The NBI alone had assigned seven investigators to work on the case almost full-time.

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