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Trial Date Set for Alleged Elysium Admin

In the District Court of Limburg in early August, the alleged administrator of the darknet child abuse forum “Elysium” will stand trial before Judge Marco Schneider for 12 days in one of the biggest child abuse cases in Germany. Three co-conspirators will be joining the alleged administrator on August 2. All three, according to the German authorities behind the Elysium takedown, had some role in the moderation or administration of the forum.

Elysium surfaced as one of the most popular child abuse forums on the darknet—in Germany, primarily—back in December 2016. By July 2017, the forum had attracted more than 87,000 members. By the forum’s takedown, users had registered more than 110,000 accounts. The number of members was not particularly surprising to German authorities; darknet child abuse forums have had hundreds of thousands of members (or member accounts). While the child abuse forum landscape is constantly changing, some forums have touched one million user accounts before vanishing or rebranding.

Spokespeople for the Central Office of the Suppression of Cybercrime (ZIT) of the Attorney General’s Office in Frankfurt, after the Elysium takedown, highlighted the rapid growth of the Elysium platform. In the few months the forum existed, law enforcement watched as thousands of new users signed up every day. (Obviously the number of accounts is not a precise measure of the number of members or even active members. Users create duplicate accounts, etc.) Some members have already pleaded guilty to committing crimes in connection with Elysium.

Prosecutors have accused the alleged owner of Elysium—a 40-year-old father from Bad Camberg—of setting up the forum from servers in his garage. Although the 40-year-old was the alleged forum owner and administrator, prosecutors claimed that a 58-year-old from the district of Tübingen had helped the administrator create the site and helped advertise the site on the darknet.

Alongside the primary defendant and his alleged partner are two men accused of aiding in the moderation of the site. All four men, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, had been sharing and distributing child abuse material in furtherance of forum popularity and for their own collections. Due to the nature of the trial and the content involved, the public will not be permitted in the courtroom for the majority of the sessions. The Federal Criminal Police Office has examined millions of files and many of the pictures and videos will be used as evidence in the hearings. A spokesperson for the district court said that viewing the content would not be a public activity for obvious reasons.

The August 2 trial will likely run for 12 days. Earlier reports suggested 11 court dates in November have already been scheduled in anticipation of the results of the August trial.

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