Wildcat Scottish firms fronting global child-porn websites

revealed: Scottish firms fronting global child-porn websites

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Revealed: Scottish firms fronting global child-porn websites   4th Sept 2016

Scottish firms are acting as fronts for international websites used to share child pornography.

A Sunday Herald investigation has
discovered that secretive shell companies registered in Scotland are
behind online file-sharing systems accused of enabling access to
everything from images of young children being abused to “rape” videos.

The firms involved are Scottish limited
partnerships, or SLPs, a once obscure kind of company now widely
marketed across the former Soviet Union as a way for entrepreneurs to
hide both their wealth and their identity.

 At least two such businesses registered
in Scotland are formally hosting at least four so-called
“cyberlockers”, sites which appear to facilitate industrial-scale piracy
of software, music, games, big TV shows, and Hollywood blockbusters.

These cyberlockers also host material
featuring children under nine. Other forms of extreme pornography
available featured rape and incest.

Our internet checks also uncovered links
to piracy, with numerous mainstream films and television shows
available, including movies currently on general release in cinemas,
such as the latest Jason Bourne production.

The Sunday Herald has forwarded our
findings to Police Scotland, which has launched its own investigation.
After discussions with detectives we have decided not to publish the
names of either the websites concerned or the Scottish-registered
companies behind them in order not to alert the firms and impede the
police investigation.

Detective Inspector Eamonn Keane, one of
the country’s leading cybercrime experts, has seen the links discovered
by the Sunday Herald.

He said: “Police Scotland is investigating this matter.”

Keane stressed that there are numerous
file-sharing systems available and that most of them do not facilitate
access to any material that breaks indecency or child protection laws in
Scotland or other countries.

He added: “But there are those sharing content that is criminal or close to criminal.”

Cyberlockers are just the latest
unethical or illegal business being fronted by Scotland’s increasingly
controversial limited partnerships.

The Sunday Herald last year detailed how
such firms, sometimes based at modest council houses or virtual offices
in provincial Scottish high streets, were used to launder proceeds of
the alleged looting of $1bn from banks in Moldova, Europe’s poorest
country.

Similar SLPs, with secret partners
formally registered in jurisdictions such as Dominica, Panama, the
British Virgin Islands or Belize, were named in corruption scandals in
Latvia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Our sister paper, The Herald, has also
revealed that they have been used as front companies for a variety of
controversial online businesses, including those offering to write
essays for students or pushing diet pills regarded in the UK as a scam.

Some cyberlockers linked to Scottish shell companies have already come to the attention of international campaigners.

A group based in Australia, Copy
Control, has described one of the sites identified by the Sunday Herald
as “a haven of illegal pornography” and campaigned for major credit card
companies to boycott it.

The group, which is backed by the
mainstream adult entertainment industry, claimed the cyberlocker
concerned contained pirated software and movies, including legal porn,
as well as images of children, animals and adults being sexually abused.

All four cyberlockers linked by the
Sunday Herald to Scottish limited partnerships have published terms and
conditions claiming to prohibit any illegal pornography or any images of
children. The websites also say they do not allow users to upload
copyrighted material.

However, such claims have been
undermined by Copy Control which uncovered links entitled “rape medley”
and “incest films” featured in promotions for $89 annual subscriptions
to “Scottish” cyberlockers.

Law enforcement sources stress that such
sites operate over a number of different jurisdictions, including those
where child pornography or copyright protection are not taken as
seriously as in Scotland.

The two Scottish limited partnerships
linked to cyberlockers are registered at virtual offices in central
Scotland and have no physical presence here. At least one of the sites
in their name is also registered through a virtual office here. The
cyberlocker sites themselves, while operating under the name of the
Scottish shell companies concerned, give management addresses in other
countries, such as Russia and South Korea.

The Sunday Herald shared some of its findings with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).

Its director general, Kieron Sharp, said:

“In principle there are many legitimate uses for cyberlockers, such as sharing photo albums or work related files. However,
they are increasingly being used to illegally share copyrighted TV and
film content. Popular cyberlockers receive millions of hits a day and
are generating substantial profit through advertising or premium
subscriptions and affiliate schemes – whilst the businesses and creators
who put the time, effort and income into creating the content, are
being short changed of their well-deserved revenue.
What
is even more concerning is that illegal piracy sites have also been
found to be linked to other types of serious organised crime.
Our
investigations in the past have uncovered information that the
individuals behind these sites are also linked to other illegal activity
such as counterfeit pharmaceuticals and drugs and we continue to work
with the police and other law enforcement agencies to ensure this
criminality is combated.”

An MP, Roger Mullin of the SNP, will
this week seek an amendment to the UK government’s Finance Bill to
review Scottish limited partnerships amid growing cross-party concerns
that the corporate structure, created under a Westminster law of 1907,
is facilitating international tax evasion, money-laundering and cyber
crime.

Children’s tsar: “I applaud Sunday Herald”

Scotland’s official champion of
children’s rights has called for those who access images of abused
youngsters to be pursued with the same “vigour” as abusers.

Tam Baillie, Scotland’s commissioner for children and young people, said:

“We need to be clear: accessing
pornography is not a victimless crime. The demand for it is leading to
countless numbers of children being abused across the globe. The origin
of the images doesn’t matter, it is accessing them that creates the
crime and fuels the demand for children to be used and abused.”

Speaking after being alerted to the role of Scottish firms in fronting for websites where abuse files are shared, he said:

“It is obvious that
some adults will use any means at their disposal to access child
pornography and the discovery that so-called ‘cyberlockers’ are being
used for this purpose, is another illustration of the need to be always
vigilant.”
Pornographic
images have a longevity in the digital sphere and the impact of the
abuse on children is devastating which makes it all the more urgent that
we pursue those who access these images with the same vigour as we
pursue those who abuse children, using whatever means we can.
I applaud the Sunday Herald for shining a light on this issue.”

Children’s charity NSPCC last week revealed
that Police Scotland had recorded 1900 child pornography offences over
the last three years. The figure for the whole UK topped 21,600 in the
same period. Sunday Herald


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