Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, June 20, 2019, 05:19 EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 20, 2019, 12:38 pm EDT
A year-long investigation into an online child pornography shop has led to the arrest of five individuals associated with the Toronto-based web hosting company, where the site has stored its "horrible" content, according to the Ontario Provincial Police.
The investigation, called Project Greenwell, began in October 2012 after police from Toronto received numerous indications of the existence of a child pornography website attributable to the Toronto-based web hosting company ***** Media.
According to OPP, members of the TPS have issued a search warrant against the company at Gordon Baker Road in North York to search for approximately 800 child abuse files. However, they soon realized that they had encountered a much larger operation.
A total of 32 servers filled with approximately 1,000 terabytes of data were eventually confiscated and a major investigation initiated in several jurisdictions.
At a press conference on Thursday, OPP Det. Insp. David MacDonald said investigators have since discovered that a massive child pornography site with 60,000 registered users was hosted in at least 116 different countries.
This website was later attributed to a man in Vietnam who is still outstanding.
The charges announced by the police on Thursday relate to a separate investigation that started in 2014 and was addressed to the owners of the company hosting the content for the site.
According to MacDonald, the investigators were aware of the nature of the content hosted on their servers and decided not to do anything.
He said that he believes this is the first time in Canada that the owners of a web hosting company have been charged in connection with a child pornography investigation.
"We believe that the dissemination of child pornography images without the existing infrastructure on such a global scale could never take place. So hopefully the message will be clear to other web hosts. You can not allow this to happen in your infrastructure, and you are required by law to report to the police as soon as you hear about it, "he said.
The website was only in operation for months
According to MacDonald, the site was only in use for about six months when the police issued the first search warrant. However, she has "grown dramatically" in that time, both in terms of the number of members and the sheer volume of images of child abuse it has hosted.
He said the data seized during the operation was so extensive that the Ontario Provincial Police were initially unable to save everything.
"If we investigate such evidence forensically, we copy it and take care of the copy. So if you get proofs of this size, you need to be able to copy them and put them somewhere, and in 2012 we simply did not have such space. "It was just the beginning of the technical complexity we faced in this investigation."
The investigation of the child pornography website has led to countless other investigations around the world.
According to MacDonald, investigators have uncovered the financial information for 19,013 individuals who have purchased premium memberships on the site and forwarded them to the appropriate authorities.
A spokesman for the US Department of Homeland Security told reporters at the press conference on Thursday that information from the OPP investigation had identified around 2,000 suspects in the US alone.
MacDonald said the images hosted on the site showed victims around the world. He said that the images hosted on the site, although only in operation for a few months, were downloaded about 19 million times.
"These are not simple pictures of children in bathing suits. That's really, really horrible, "he said.
Zhen He (Patrick) Zeng, 40, from Richmond Hill, Zhen Yu (Jeff) Zeng, 42, from Richmond Hill, Chin Choi (Peter) Kok, 52, from Richmond Hill, Sui Hua (Jeff) Ye, 47, from Aurora and Wen (Larry) Li, 31, of Toronto, are facing eleven charges in connection with the investigation. The allegations they face include the provision of child pornography and possession of child pornography.