Namibia: 'Dark Web' Links Lead to Windhoek

10 September 2021

INFORMATION received from the police in the Netherlands and Australia set Namibian detectives on the trail of Windhoek resident Johann Maree, who is charged with committing numerous sex crimes with underage boys and selling child pornography to paedophiles on the internet.

This was conveyed to magistrate Celma Amadhila when Namibian Police commissioner Nelius Becker testified before her in a bail application by Maree in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.

Maree (50), a former police officer who rejoined the Namibian Police as a reservist shortly before his arrest at the end of April last year, launched an application to be granted bail two weeks ago.

Becker recounted that a request from the Dutch police for information from the Namibian Police landed on his desk during 2019, when he was the national head of the police's Criminal Investigations Directorate.

The request, which was about the involvement of a Namibian citizen in the distribution of child pornography, was made after a Dutch citizen had been arrested in the Netherlands and pornographic material and email messages had been seized from him, Becker said.

Also seized were records of money transfers between the Dutch citizen and Maree, he said.

As chance would have it, Becker recognised the person referred to in the request from the Netherlands police.

It was Maree, who at that stage lived close to Becker in an apartment complex in Windhoek.

Becker continued that the Dutch police put him in contact with a police officer in Queensland, Australia, whose work consists mostly of monitoring material on the 'dark web' - a murky internet underworld hidden from normal search engines where transactions and exchanges can be done that can involve anything from illegal weapons and drugs to stolen goods and child pornography.

The Australian police officer had been monitoring a site on the 'dark web' on which a person calling himself 'jackinlad' had posted some videos and photos, and had connected 'jackinlad' to Maree, thousands of kilometres away in Windhoek.

The officer in Queensland sent the material posted by 'jackinlad' to the police in Namibia, where it was viewed and seen to consist of recordings of young boys in a bathroom, showing some of them in sex acts, and also including photographs from video recordings of boys visiting a bathroom at the Olympia public swimming pool in Windhoek, Becker said.

He testified that the police managed to trace some of the boys shown in the material received from the Australian police, and they made statements in which they said they had not been aware of cameras recording them.

After obtaining a search warrant, the police visited Maree's rented home in Windhoek.

During a search of the premises, "various sexual paraphernalia" and also spy cameras were found, Becker said.

When Maree was questioned, he provided his password to an encrypted email service provider based in Switzerland. His username for that email service was 'jackinlad16', Becker told the magistrate.

He further testified that the police identified children with whom Maree had been in contact.

They were interviewed in the presence of a social worker, and reported that they had been involved in sexual acts with Maree.

Becker said Maree appeared to have targeted children in difficult home circumstances - some lived in a children's home in Windhoek - and that he groomed them by for instance buying them gifts. There was also a pattern of him taking boys to his house, where sexual games would be played and he would encourage them to perform sexual acts, he said.

Becker said Maree initially cooperated with the police and also made a confession to a magistrate.

Maree is now denying the confession. He told the magistrate on Wednesday that he made the confession because a police officer had promised he would be given bail if he did so. He also said the officer had given him instructions about what he had to say in the confession.

Maree could easily flee to South Africa, where he has lived, if released on bail, Becker said.

The bail hearing is due to continue on Tuesday next week.

Public prosecutor Phelem Like is representing the state. Defence lawyer Eva Maria Nangolo is representing Maree.

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