Hundreds arrested in worldwide child porn sting, exposing international child exploitation ring

March 6, 2022


NEW ZEALAND- The Daily Caller reports that hundreds of people have been arrested from virtually around the world in connection with international child pornography networks as part of a two-year investigation into international child pornography networks, European authorities say.


According to the report, law enforcement authorities discovered a number of files including some which showed “imagery depicting sadistic acts of sexual abuse of infants and children.”

This came after an online service provider reported in 2019 that their platform was being used to share images of child sexual abuse, a press release from Europol, a European law enforcement organization read.


Thus far, the investigation has resulted in some 836 cases and the safeguarding of 146 children internationally, the press release noted. Police have thus far identified over 100 suspects across the EU and arrested 46 in New Zealand alone, the press release said.


The New York Times reports that the New Zealand-based investigation discovered a secret global network which shared child sexual abuse images on a wide scale.


According to the investigation, the pandemic actually was able to provide cover for some of the illegal activities, since lockdowns kept children isolated in their homes, which predators took advantage of as they searched the web in search of victims, according to a British official.


The probe, called Operation H, involved 12 countries and it was discovered that some 90,000 accounts were linked to the illicit activity.


The investigation uncovered 32 gigabytes of files which contained the images which included “sadistic acts of sexual abuse of infants and children,” the statement read.


Over the 100 suspects arrested, 47 were Canadian, with hundreds being charged in Britain. In Australia, officials charged 121 men with over 1,200 offenses.


“This operation will have an impact on the global networks that deal in the most horrific and damaging material, and we are extraordinarily proud of the effect it will have on children’s lives around the world,” said Tim Houston, who led the operation at the Department of Internal Affairs in New Zealand, the Times said.


Houston continued to point out that distribution of such images could create additional issues for the victims going forward.


“Many people who view material of this kind will go on to physically offend against children,” he said. “This is not a victimless crime; every time this material is viewed, that child is revictimized.”


According to the Internet Watch Foundation, a UK-based charity, last year was the worst on record for the distribution of sexual abuse images online, likely due to the previously disclosed reason, that being the pandemic and children being forced to stay at home.


In 2021, the foundation identified over a quarter-million instances of online images featuring children being sexually abused, an increase of almost 100,000 images, or nearly 70 percent, compared to such images found in 2020.


As noted, the investigation originated in New Zealand, however security agencies from Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, Spain, and the United States were also involved, as well as Interpol.


Thus far, some 146 children around the world have been rescued, including six in New Zealand, 79 in the UK, and 51 in Australia.


In two of the cases, one each in Austria and Hungary, suspects were actually accused of abusing their own children, aged 6 and 8, respectively.


Meanwhile in Spain, a suspect was found both in possession of and dissemination of material about child sexual exploitation, the Times wrote, while making covert sexual images of adults without their

consent, authorities said.


Some who were initially charged with less serious offenses of possessing the material later had charges upgraded, with one person charged in New Zealand admitting to “consuming child exploitation material for over 20 years as well as other forms of harmful material such as bestiality and torture bondage,” New Zealand authorities said.


In that case, the offender traveled to Asia and paid families there to create images of their own children being sexually abused for financial gain, the investigation found.


“Although the offender denied engaging in sexual exploitation while abroad, it is likely from the information obtained that they were a sex tourist,” a spokesman at the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs said.


Meanwhile in the UK, officers from the National Crime Agency arrested 450 people on charges of using the platform, and those detentions, authorities said, often led to additional charges being brought.


“Much of this activity took place during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when the majority of young people were at home and offenders had more time to spend online targeting their victims,” said Sarah Blight, a spokeswoman for the agency.


In perhaps one of the most troubling revelations discovered as part of the probe, the investigation found a pattern of offenders working in “positions of trust,” including at kindergarten and primary schools, in health care professions, as religious clergy or as members of law enforcement.


One suspect in fact worked at a night support worker in a children’s home, and had hundreds of indecent images of children on his phone, authorities said.


Law Enforcement Today has previously reported on the horror of child trafficking at the southern border. For more on that, we invite you to:


SOURCE: Law Enforcement Today


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