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Feds take down Backpage.com and charge founders with prostitution and money laundering

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feds take down Backpage.com

US authorities have closed down a classified listings website that had been repeatedly accused of facilitating sex trafficking and charged its founders with a number of prostitution and money laundering offences.

An indictment against Backpage.com creators Michael Lacey and James Larkin and five members of the website’s staff has been made public after it was taken offline and its servers seized on Friday.

Backpage.com, which is said to have raked in more than $500 million from listings linked to illegal sex work and laundered its profits through non-related businesses, had previously shut down the adult section of its US site, but critics said sex-related adverts were simply moved to other pages.

Visitors to the US version of the site are now greeted with a massage explaining that its serves have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.

In a statement, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike.

“But this illegality stops right now. Last Friday, the Department of Justice seized Backpage, and it can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking.”

Campaigners and sex trafficking advocacy groups have long called for allegations that the site was routinely used to facilitate forced prostitution to be probed.

Prosecutors argue that while the site’s founders and the members of its staff who face charges were not directly involved in commercial sex exploitation, they were aware that the overwhelming majority of the listings on its sites were related to the services of prostitutes.

While some activists have welcomed the move, others have voiced concern that shutting down websites and forums such as Backpage.com could put sex workers in greater danger by removing a safe way for them to communicate with existing and potential clients.

“The shutting down of #Backpage is an absolute crisis for sex workers who rely on the site to safely get in touch with clients,” the official Twitter account for the Women’s march movement tweeted on Saturday. “Sex workers rights are women’s rights.”

Towards the end of last month, Craigslist banned personal listings after the US government introduced new legalisation making online publishers responsible for the promotion of prostitution and sex trafficking.

The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) amends the US Communications Decency Act by specifically allowing criminal and civil actions against a website if its conduct violates federal sex trafficking laws.

In a statement, Craigslist said: “US Congress just passed HR 1865, ‘FOSTA’, seeking to subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully.

“Any tool or service can be misused. We can’t take such risk without jeopardising all our other services, so we are regretfully taking Craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some day.”

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Spanish police and Europol help smash counterfeit currency networks in Madrid and Bogota

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counterfeit currency networks in Madrid and Bogota

Police in Spain have arrested eight people in a Europol-backed operation targeting a counterfeit currency network that investigators believe was responsible for the distribution of large quantities of bogus €50 ($56) banknotes in multiple locations across the country.

The suspects, the majority of whom are said to have been Senegalese nationals, were detained during raids on four properties in Madrid after law enforcement officers intercepted fake bills with a face value of €15,000 in a package addressed to the leader of the network.

Police said the contents of the package, which had arrived in Spain from Italy, was intended to be distributed primarily in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​where members of the organisation employed mules to inject the counterfeit currency into local economies via shops and other businesses.

The investigation that led to the arrest of the suspects was launched back in March when Spanish police learned that a Senegalese national was selling fake banknotes as well as dealing heroin, cocaine and cannabis.

Surveillance of the man led investigators to members of the network, who were found to have been making regular trips to Italy to arrange shipments of the fake banknotes they sold.

After realising the international nature of the conspiracy, police in Spain approached Europol and requested assistance with their investigation into the network’s activities.

In statement, Europol said: “Over 60 police officers were involved in the action day [that led to the suspects’ arrests].

“Europol deployed a mobile office to Madrid, allowing for the real-time crosschecking of the information against the agency’s databases.”

In a separate operation, Spanish police and their counterparts in Colombia have dismantled a clandestine counterfeit euro and US dollar banknote printing press in Bogota.

The investigation resulted in the arrest of two people and the seizure of fakes banknotes with a face value of $20,000, electronic devices, a printer, inks, paper and various other tools used during the counterfeiting process.

Colombian police requested technical and operational support from Spanish investigators and Europol once they had established the network was involved in the production of fake euro notes.

Back in April, police in Spain revealed they had broken up an organised crime gang behind a counterfeit note printing operation that made €7,500 every month.

Operation Malla resulted in the arrest of four people and the seizure of counterfeit currency worth €15,500 during a raid on a property in Tenerife that was used as a base by the gang behind the fake banknote plot.

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Britain’s ‘worst-ever’ paedophile found stabbed to death in his jail cell

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Britain’s ‘worst-ever’ paedophile found stabbed to death

A man routinely described as one of the UK’s worst-ever paedophiles has been stabbed to death in his jail cell, a spokesperson from the England and Wales Prison Service has confirmed.

Richard Huckle, 33, is said to have been killed by a fellow inmate using a “makeshift blade” more than three years after he was handed 22 life sentences for raping and sexually assaulting as many as 200 children from mainly disadvantaged communities in Southeast Asia while presenting himself as a Christian doing voluntary work in the region.

A fellow prisoner at HMP Full Sutton, which houses some of the UK’s most violent and dangerous inmates, is reported to have been isolated from other prisoners after Huckle’s blood-stained corpse was discovered slumped lifeless in his cell.

“HMP Full Sutton prisoner Richard Huckle died on 13 October,” a Prison Service spokesperson said.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further while a police investigation is ongoing.”

Police are now preparing to launch a murder investigation.

“Humberside Police are working closely with the Prison Service to investigate the death of an inmate and at this time we are treating the death as suspicious,” a force spokesperson said.

Jailing Huckle in June 2016, Judge Peter Rook QC ordered that he must serve a minimum term of 25 years to reflect “public abhorrence” at his “campaign of rape”, describing a “paedophile manual” Huckle wrote as a “truly evil document”.

Rook told Huckle it was “very rare indeed” that a judge had to sentence sexual offending by one person on such a scale.

During his trial at the Old Bailey in London, the court was told how police investigating Huckle discovered more than 20,000 indecent pictures and videos of his assaults on his computer.

Huckle is said to have attempted to monetise his abuse activity by charging fellow paedophiles for access to his catalogue of abuse material, which investigators discovered after he was arrested when returning to the UK in 2014 following a tip-off from Australian authorities.

After his arrest, investigators from the UK’s National Crime Agency described the scale of Huckle’s offending as “unprecedented and exceptional”.

Responding to concern that Malaysia failed to act on a tip-off about Huckle’s activities in 2014, Khalid Abu Bakar, the country’s police chief, said British detectives had been unable to provide their counterparts in Malaysia with enough information to allow them to investigate the prolific paedophile.

“That was our main obstacle when dealing with European countries because, by law, they are unable to cooperate with us because we carry out capital punishment,” Reuters quoted Khalid as saying.

“Now that this case is over, I hope that the British authorities will no longer hold back any information from us.”

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Police in Bolivia arrest Lima Lobo family drugs clan boss in Interpol-supported operation

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police in Bolivia arrest Lima Lobo family drugs clan boss

An Interpol-backed operation carried out by law enforcement authorities in Bolivia has resulted in the arrest of a major drug baron wanted by police in Brazil on an international warrant.

Investigators in the South American country detained Bolivian national Jesus Einar Lima Lobo Dorado, 52, at the end of last month in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra following a global effort to secure his capture.

Lima Lobo Dorado, who was being hunted internationally by Brazil after the issuing of an Interpol Red Notice, is said to be one of the senior leaders of the Lima Lobo family clan, which is known to have links with drug cartels in Colombia as well as in Brazil.

The Lima Lobo clan, which is thought to have been operating since the 1990s, is suspected of trafficking large quantities of drugs internationally across several countries in the Amazonian region via a network of private aircraft flown by members who hold pilot licenses.

The suspect was targeted by Interpol’s Fugitive Investigative Support unit after a meeting in Buenos Aires last year as part of its activities within Project EL PAcCTO (Europe-Latin America Assistance Programme against Transnational Organised Crime).

Commenting on the arrest, Interpol chief Jürgen Stock said: “Helping member countries bring fugitives to justice is at the heart of what Interpol is and does.

“International police cooperation is crucial because for criminals, there are no borders.”

“Without the Red Notice and our close collaboration with Bolivia and Brazil through EL PAcCTO, this fugitive would likely still be at large.”

Presenting Lima Lobo Dorado at a press conference after his arrest, police in Bolivia said his apprehension would help them dismantle an organised criminal network that has been trafficking drugs across South America for several generations of the family that runs it.

Lima Lobo Dorado was wanted by Brazilian authorities for smuggling 10kgs of cocaine into the country.

If found guilty, he could face 20 years behind bars.

As well as using private planes to traffic wholesale amounts of illegal drugs across South America, members of the Lima Lobo clan also operated across land and sea routes.

Bolivian police said they have now issued arrest warrants for other members of the clan, including Edward Lima Lobo, Oscar Eduardo Lima Lobo, Edwin Douglas Lima Lobo and Carmen Ibis Lima Lobo.

Interpol said its support of the EL PAcCTO project falls within an EU-funded three-year initiative intended to create a permanent mechanism for fugitive investigations across Latin America involving Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Peru.

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