Data Breach News

French Authorities Seize Child Abuse And Drug Dealing Site

The online platform acted as a multipurpose criminal hub where child pornography, sexual exploitation, drug dealing, and violent acts including homicides were discussed, planned and executed.

by Mihir Bagwe July 2, 2024

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French authorities seized servers and proceeds worth millions belonging to the “Coco” chat website, a free-for-all online platform that facilitated child sexual abuse and drug dealing, among other illegal activities.

In a major international cooperative effort, the French authorities, alongside Bulgaria, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, and Hungary, dismantled a notorious online platform that facilitated a range of criminal activities.

Under investigation since December 2023, the website called “Coco” has facilitated child pornography, sexual exploitation, drug dealing and violent acts including homicides, said Eurojust, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation.

The details of the seizure were revealed on Monday, a week after the initial announcement from the Paris prosecutor’s office that the website was no longer available and only displayed a seizure notice from the French national police.

Platform Served as Hub for Organized Crime

For years, the platform served as a virtual meeting ground for criminals, enabling them to communicate, plan operations, and conduct transactions, said Eurojust. Over 23,000 judicial procedures linked to this platform have been initiated since 2021, with at least 480 victims identified to date.

French authorities launched an investigation in December last year after it received a host of allegations about the abuse faced by some individuals through the platform. The investigation uncovered the platform’s role in facilitating activities like human trafficking and child exploitation for organized crime groups, after which the authorities took steps to shut it down.

Coordinated Takedown Nets Servers and Millions

A synchronized operation supported by Eurojust led to the seizure of servers located in Germany, effectively shutting down the platform and displaying a splash page. Lithuanian and Hungarian authorities swiftly executed freezing orders, securing over €5.6 million in suspected criminal funds.

Furthermore, a European Investigation Order (EIO) issued by France was successfully executed in Bulgaria. French magistrates and law enforcement officials, authorized by Bulgarian authorities, conducted bank statement reviews, searches, seizures, and witness interviews.

Coco Chat Site’s Links to Violence

Coco was a chat website with a notorious lack of moderation. Rights groups in France have labeled it a “predator’s den” due to its alleged links to violence. SOS Homophobie, for instance, called for its closure after a brutal attack on a gay man allegedly planned by Coco users.

Child protection groups have also campaigned against Coco since 2013, citing its easy access for criminals. The website, owned by a Bulgarian company and operating outside French jurisdiction with a [.]gg domain, boasted over 850,000 users in France as of 2023. Paris prosecutors connect Coco’s anonymity to its appeal for criminals, highlighting a recent murder allegedly set up on the platform.

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