Son Jong-woo, a South Korean national who operated the world`s largest child pornography website, leaves the Seoul Central District Court on Monday after attending an arrest warrant hearing. (Yonhap)
The South Korean national who operated the world’s largest child pornography website remains free, after a local court denied an arrest warrant for him late Monday night.
The Seoul Central District Court denied the request from the prosecution on Monday, as the accused, Son Jong-woo, has been closely cooperating with the investigation and is deemed unlikely to flee or destroy evidence.
“The suspect has acknowledged his crimes, and much of the basic evidence has been compiled already, so there seems to be no risk of him destroying evidence,” Judge Won Jung-sook ruled.
“(Son) underwent investigation without detention and has appeared for hearings. And the fact that all of the forfeiture has already been collected means it is not logically sensible to grant the arrest.”
Son, the mastermind behind the US-based child porn website known as Welcome to Video, is under investigation on allegations of forging documents and concealing criminal proceeds.
He is suspected of collecting 400 million won ($358,000) in virtual currency for providing videos of child sexual exploitation to some 4,000 people on the darknet over a period of two years and eight months, starting in July 2015.
The investigation kicked off with a complaint from Son’s father. The complaint was widely seen as an attempt by the father to protect Son from being extradited to the United States.
The 25-year-old has been wanted by US authorities since a US federal grand jury indicted him in 2018 on nine charges, including producing, advertising and distributing child pornography, as well as conspiracy and money laundering.
According to the US Justice Department, Son’s porn site contained more than 250,000 videos, or around 8 terabytes of child pornography, making it “the largest child sexual exploitation market by volume of content.” The child pornography he distributed contained children as young as 6 months old.
Son was arrested in Korea in March 2018 following a joint investigation among Korean, US and British authorities. The same year, he was sentenced by a local court to 18 months in prison for producing and circulating images of child sexual abuse.
The child porn site operator remained in detention even after completing his prison sentence on April 27, as extradition proceedings were underway upon a request last year from the US Justice Department.
Son was released from detention in July after the Seoul High Court rejected the extradition request.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org