Telegram trafficker’s 16-year-old accomplice sees trial delayed

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Telegram trafficker’s 16-year-old accomplice sees trial delayed


A group calls for an end to online sexual exploitation in front of the National Assembly in Yeouido, western, Seoul, on Friday. [YONHAP]

A court delayed the trial of a 16-year-old boy for distribution of child pornography to allow prosecutors more time to investigate his role in the pornography ring that enslaved dozens of females, including children, and run through the Telegram messaging app.

The police revealed Thursday that the teen, only identified by the surname Lee, was arrested last month for selling illegal pornographic materials through instant messaging apps and indicted March 5.

Police say Lee was a key accomplice of alleged sexual predator Cho Ju-bin, arrested last week for allegedly blackmailing at least 74 people, including 16 children and teens, into participating in pornographic photos and videos against their will and selling them through Telegram.

After being arrested on Feb. 20, Lee was questioned and indicted on March 5 on charges of violating the Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles from Sexual Abuse, and his trial was scheduled to start Monday. The prosecution, however, asked the Seoul Central District Court for more time to investigate the boy’s connections with Cho, and the court granted the wish Friday. Lee’s trial will start on April 20.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, Lee allegedly helped Cho operate his business creating and selling violent sexual videos and photos. Last October, when he was a middle school student, Lee started his own business, Pacific Expedition, after his username, Pacific. Like Cho’s, it sold access to illegal sex videos and photos including child pornography.

About 10,000 subscribers used Lee’s service until his arrest last month, the police said.

At the age of 16, Lee is still subject to the Juvenile Act, which deals with criminal suspects under 19 years of age, often with leniency.

According to the police, Lee informed his customers in January to use another instant messaging app, Wire, for better security, as the investigation into Cho intensified, police said. According to the police, Wire chatrooms can only be accessed by invitation.

The prosecution’s questioning of Cho continued for the second day on Friday. According to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, the questioning started at 10:20 a.m., and Cho was grilled without a lawyer, as he said he does not need one.

The prosecution grilled him for 10 hours on Thursday over general facts. Cho calmly answered questions but denied some assertions, investigators told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Prosecutors say Cho is facing at least 12 charges including creating and distributing child pornography, forcing sexual assault including rape, blackmailing and fraud. The prosecutors have generated 120,000 pages of initial investigation reports.

Meanwhile, an apparent customer of Cho’s service committed suicide on Friday, after the government vowed to go after customers of illegal porn rings. According to the police, a man in his 40s jumped into the Han River from Yeongdong Bridge around 2:47 a.m. A suicide note was found at the site.

He wrote in the one-page note that he had paid money to Cho’s service, and he never expected the situation to grow this serious. “I am sorry to the victims and my family,” the note was quoted as saying by the police.

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