Australian police have rescued four children from a world child sexual exploitation ring that allegedly sold videos and pictures of kid rape and abuse online.
The victims, aged between two months and eight years old, were taken into care by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) following a two-year international and multi-agency investigation that led to the arrest of 16 people.
Following a tipoff from US detectives in 2018, Australian authorities launched a search into a web marketplace whose users allegedly bought the encrypted images and video files depicting the sexual assault of youngsters.
Code-named Operation Walwa, the investigation was a collaborative effort involving the sharing of data between US Homeland Security, Interpol, Europol, US cyber and sexual assault teams, and a number of other Australian state and territory commands.
As a result, investigators executed 18 search warrants across NSW, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia.
Three of the rescued children were taken to safety from in an address in New South Wales, while the fourth was collected from an address in Victoria. consistent with ABC news, a minimum of three of the youngsters were associated with those now charged with completing their abuse and taking advantage of it.
The 16 individuals arrested in reference to the kid abuse ring are charged with a complete of 738 child exploitation offenses.
“These crimes see people using significant established networks to share maltreatment material and cash in of vulnerable children,” Victoria detective Karen Bennett said.
“They have devastating impacts on victims and therefore the wider community.”
Adam Parks from US Homeland Security said that criminals who believe that they’re immune from arrest during the worldwide health crisis are incorrect.
“Let this be a warning that enforcement is undeterred by COVID-19 and remains on-duty to stay our youngsters safe in Australia, the US, and online,” said Parks.
The head of strategic policing at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Dr. John Coyne, said criminals who access kiddie porn from home believing themselves to be safe from capture are going to be caught.
“Unfortunately, people are ready to create global networks using off-the-shelf encryption and that they can interact from their living rooms,” said Coyne. “If you think that you’ll sit reception and watch and not get caught, police will dismantle these groups and pursue users.”