German police said Monday they had shut down "one of the biggest darknet child pornography platforms in the world" and arrested four of its members in a series of raids in mid-April.
The platform, named as "Boystown", had existed since 2019, counted over 400,000 members and was "set up for the worldwide exchange of child pornography, in particular images of the abuse of boys", federal police said in a statement.
The darknet forum allowed users to communicate with others and share graphic image and video content which included "serious sexual abuse of toddlers", the statement said.
Three men between the ages of 40 and 64 were arrested in seven raids in Germany, while a further suspect was detained in Paraguay on the request of German authorities.
The suspect in Paraguay's Concepcion region, also a German citizen, is to be extradited back to Germany on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by a court in Frankfurt.
The three main suspects, aged 40, 49 and 58 respectively, are accused of having managed the platform as administrators, providing technical support and advice to members on how to avoid being discovered by the authorities.
A further suspect, a 64-year-old man from Hamburg, was "one of the platform's most active users", having posted "more than 3,500" times on the platform since signing up to it in 2019, police said.
"This sends a clear message: if you commit offences against the weakest, you will not be safe anywhere," said Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer in a statement.
"We are bringing the perpetrators to account and doing everything humanly possible to protect children from such repugnant crimes," he added. (AFP)