Arrest warrant filed for another alleged Telegram operator

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Arrest warrant filed for another alleged Telegram operator

Police on Wednesday filed for a warrant for the arrest of another alleged operator of a massive online pornography ring that enslaved dozens of women and minors.

The suspect, an 18-year-old surnamed Kang known by his online alias Butta, is believed to have helped prime suspect Cho Ju-bin collect and manage members of chat rooms on the Telegram app used to share and distribute the pornographic content.

Cho, a 24-year-old known as Baksa, and three of his accomplices including Kang face criminal indictments for allegedly blackmailing women into sharing sexual photographs and videos of themselves. Around 15,000 people are believed to have paid to access the chat rooms through cryptocurrency transactions.

At least 103 people, including 26 minors, have been identified as victims so far.

Kang, who was a high school student when Cho’s Telegram chat rooms were active last year, was allegedly responsible for funneling the cryptocurrency earnings to Cho. He was apprehended by police and is being held under temporary detention until the court makes a ruling for his indefinite arrest today.

Police said witnesses who took part in the chat rooms testified that Cho had entrusted Kang with converting the cryptocurrency into cash payouts, but that he later accused Kang of running away with the earnings after claiming he would launder them.

Though there were expectations that Kang’s arrest could help trace exactly how much money Cho and his conspirators generated through the pornography ring, police said they have yet to uncover an exact sum and that the matter on the profits remains under investigation. Police have already raided 20 cryptocurrency exchanges in Korea through which members allegedly exchanged money to pay the entrance fee for the chat rooms.

Cho, who has been under arrest since March 16, identified three co-conspirators to the police through their usernames.

Kang’s arrest follows the apprehension of another of Cho’s accomplices on Monday, who was identified as a serving member of the Army.

Known by his alias Igiya, a term commonly used by far-right internet users, the soldier is being investigated on whether he took part in the chat rooms’ operations even as he was conducting his mandatory military service. According to police, Igiya was primarily responsible for distributing and promoting the illegal pornographic content on the chat rooms.

The last of Cho’s main accomplices, known by his username Samagui, or praying mantis, has yet to be caught.

Others, who are believed to have cooperated with Cho at one point or followed his methods to perpetuate a system of sexual exploitation online, also remain at large.

Last month, a 16-year-old high school student surnamed Lee was arrested by police for operating a different chat room on Telegram that also distributed illegal pornographic content to paying members. The suspect, who went by the username Taepyungyang, or Pacific Ocean, operated his chat room from October last year to February this year, at its peak attracting up to 20,000 members.

Investigators have also identified at least two social service agents, those serving out their mandatory military duties at public institutions, who allegedly aided Cho’s crimes by collecting private information on citizens through government databases.

As for the 15,000 or so consumers of the content, police said they have identified the usernames of every paying member, and that they would continue efforts to identify each one.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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