A group of European law enforcement agencies formed a coalition under an operation called ‘Operation Atelier’ to bust a very big network of child image abusers. The investigation carried out with the help of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), together with Eurojust and authorities from six different European countries which include Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Spain and Sweden swooped on the cyber criminals in different locations in Europe in a co-ordinated effort and managed to arrest 10 individuals and bring down a large network of professional photographers who specialised in producing and distributing child abuse material.
The action involving six European countries was able to dismantle a network of child abuse photographers and has resulted in the arrest of 10 individuals and the seizure of an extensive amount of digital evidence. Authorities were able to make arrests in the Czech Republic (5), France (1), Ireland (1), Spain (1) and Sweden (2). The investigation which was secret resulted in six house searches, 30 TB of data, hundreds of DVDs, and 480 000 files which were impounded for further analysis and evidence.
Europol which issued a statement regarding the arrests, said that the goal of Operation Atelier, which was initiated by the Czech law enforcement authorities, was to dismantle the criminal network that was established by the main criminals in the Czech Republic and Sweden. The Czech suspect took advantage of socially and financially disadvantaged children by convincing them to pose for him. In lure for economic gain, close to 70 children became victims of the suspect. The suspects then distributed these illegal child abuse images off- and on-line to customers abroad, who are thought to be part of a worldwide network. The Swedish suspect cooperated closely with the Czech suspect to distribute the illegal material in the EU and Canada.
Europol supported the investigation by facilitating the exchange of information and intelligence, producing analytical reports and hosting an operational meeting. As a consequence of the operational meeting at Europol and a follow-up meeting at Eurojust, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Spain and Europol signed a joint investigation team (JIT) agreement in the framework of this operation. A coordinated action day was consequently held on 4 March 2014.