Joint effort of Australian and US agencies led to opening child porn production and distribution investigation
16 ‘pedophiles’ are facing more than 824 charges after tip off from US officials
Investigators identified 46 victims in Australia aged 16 months to 15 years old
The accused include a childcare worker and a children’s football coach
Police also referred matters to the US, Canada, Asia, Europe and New Zealand‘
‘Operation Arkstone’ revealed a network of abuse, where the alleged offenders in the forums encouraged and emboldened each other to engage in acts of depravity and abuse of children,’ police said
Authorities in Australia busted a global child sex ring with links to Europe, America and Asia, with 16 alleged pedophiles facing over 824 charges, police said on Wednesday..
During an operation nicknamed ‘Arkstone’,’ police arrested 16 suspected pedophiles including a childcare worker and a youth sports coach.
Investigations leading to the arrests in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia began after a tip from US officials in recent months.
Over the months investigators in Australia identified 46 victims in the country aged 16 months to 15 years.
According to Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough, the accused persons are facing a combined total of 828 charges of sexually abusing children, producing and distributing child abuse material and bestiality.
‘No child should be subjected to abuse and violence from the people they trust, whether that is a family member, a childcare worker or a soccer coach,’ Gough said.
‘Sadly and heart breakingly, this has been the case for the victims’ abused in Australia.
Police referred 18 ‘matters’ to the United States, where three men have been arrested for multiple offenses related to child abuse material, Gough said.
Another 128 matters were referred to authorities in Canada, Asia, Europe and New Zealand for investigation. Local authorities did not elaborate on those allegations.
The U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, provided Australian police with their initial tip in February, about a man in New South Wales who was uploading child abuse material, Gough said.
After Police made the initial arrest of a 30-year-old man in town of Wyong, north of Sydney, a search of his computer revealed social media forums in which he participated.
Expanding the scope, police then cast a wider dragnet, arresting more people including a childcare worker, a volunteer soccer coach, disability support worker, an electrician, supermarket employee and a chef.
In some of the most extreme cases, offenders allegedly recorded the abuse of the children and shared the footage online.
The ring used ‘the regular internet’ as well as the dark web to share material, Gough said.
‘It’s a very, very large investigation that we’ve uncovered,’ he added.
One of the most serious cases involved a suspect who had worked in a childcare center in New South Wales and had access to 30 children, police said.
The 27-year-old suspect faced more than 300 charges, including sexual abuse. His partner, 22, was also facing charges.
Police said families of the children at the center had been notified.
Australian Federal Police Acting Commander Child Protection Operations Christopher Woods said investigators and forensic specialists from the several agencies in Australia and US have spent most of 2020 investigating tirelessly to facilitate each arrest.
Victims were often identified through seemingly minor details in photos and videos and the analysis was ‘time-consuming and painstaking’ but ‘vital’ for the rescue of the children,’ he said adding ‘These men allegedly produced child abuse material for the depraved pleasure of their peers with absolutely no thought to the lasting effects their actions would have on these children.
‘Police will allege Operation Arkstone revealed a network of abuse, where the alleged offenders in the forums encouraged and emboldened each other to engage in acts of depravity and abuse of children,’ Cdr. Woods said.
U.S. Homeland Security Investigations attache to Australia Adam Parks who described the pedophile ring as a global network ‘rooted in Australia,’ revealed that there were several ongoing investigations in the United States.
These tips Parks said typically came to the attention of the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children from U.S. social media companies that report finding abusive material on their platforms.