Major Paedophile Ring Smashed by AFP & Law Enforcement Agencies Across the Globe with 230 Children Rescued
Australia (News4us.com) March 16, 2011
Almost 200 suspected paedophiles have been arrested and 230 children rescued following one of the biggest investigations of its kind so far by law enforcement agencies across the world.
The suspects were members of an online child abuse forum, with thousands of members worldwide.
After a three-year investigation spanning the globe, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and its international partner agencies today released details of the vast operation.
The AFP began an investigation in August 2007, which revealed several of the internet addresses came from Australian Internet Service Providers.
AFP Manager Investigations of the High Tech Crime Operations Grant Edwards said, “The AFP has removed four children from harmful situations and arrested 31 suspected offenders since the operation commenced in 2007.”
“The Australian suspects in this operation are aged between 19 years and 84 years, including four suspects we will allege were senior members of this syndicate. These suspects are from all walks of life, from scout leaders, to lifesavers and teachers.”
Throughout the operation the AFP worked alongside the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), New Zealand Police, Europol, the Zaanstreek-Waterland Police in the Netherlands and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
“With over 200 children removed from harm globally, we imagine an even larger number of children were safeguarded elsewhere in the world; however we will never know the total figure due to it being such a limitless crime,” Commander Edwards said.
“This demonstrates that global law enforcement is working together internationally to protect children wherever they may be in the world.”
The website itself has now been taken down. It attempted to operate as a ‘discussion only’ forum where people could share their sexual interest in young boys without committing any specific offences, thus operating ‘below the radar’.
Having made contact on the site, however, members would move to more private channels such as email in order to exchange and share illegal images and films of children being abused.
“At the end of the day, our goal is simple: child safety.”
“Fear is the foundation of safety and internet safety begins at home. We all need to be aware of the risks online and how to handle these risks,” Commander Edwards said.
Significantly, the AFP and CEOP’s covert internet investigators also tracked the migration of offenders to other sites where further investigations and risk assessments would continue against multiple suspects who did not realise that they were still the focus of law enforcement attention.
Operation Rescue began in 2007 when the site came to the attention of both the AFP and CEOP during independent enquiries. Already working together as part of the Virtual Global Taskforce – an international alliance of law enforcement agencies working to combat online child sexual exploitation – Australia and the UK joined forces to progress the investigation.
The AFP and CEOP covert investigators were deployed to infiltrate the site in order to quickly identify those members who were assessed as posing the highest risk to children. The extent to which members of the site were also involved in networking in the ‘real world’ and in offline offending emerged.
In February 2008, CEOP provided intelligence to the Royal Thai Police about British nationals who were suspected of committing child sexual abuse in their jurisdiction. This led ultimately to Operation Naga in November 2008 during which four suspects were arrested.
In March 2008, CEOP located the owner of the site and traced the server to Holland, involving the Zaanstreek-Waterland Police in the Netherlands and Europol in the investigation.
Between June 2008 and June 2009, the U.S. ICE Agency, the Italian Postal and Communications Police, the RCMP and the New Zealand Police all joined the investigation as the scale of the international network became clear and suspects were identified in their jurisdictions.
The AFP, CEOP and Europol received a copy of the site’s server. Working with Zaanstreek-Waterland Police in the Netherlands, Europol forensically interrogated the server for further information and began disseminating intelligence globally.
The AFP continues to work with forces who are actively pursuing the intelligence arising from Operation Rescue. This has lead to the arrest of a number of individuals suspected of serious offences against children and who are now awaiting trial.
The maximum penalty for using a carriage service to receive or disseminate child pornography is 15 years imprisonment and/or a $200,000 fine. This is the same penalty for the possession of child abuse material.
In December last year, the AFP assumed the role of Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) Chair and Secretariat for a three-year period.
The ‘Report Abuse Button’ on the VGT website is an effective mechanism for reporting suspected sexual predator behaviour. For more information on how to report suspicious behaviour, visit www.virtualglobaltaskforce.com.
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