A tip-off from United States authorities has exposed an international child sex abuse ring in Australia that is connected to the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe and New Zealand, Australian police said on Wednesday, November 11.
Sixteen men, including a childcare worker and a children’s soccer coach, were arrested in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia in recent months, according to the Associated Press (AP). The offenders are aged between 20 and 48 years and, like the child care worker and soccer coach, many of them hold community positions, such as disability support worker, electrician, supermarket employee and chef, according to The Guardian.
The former childcare worker used his job and “other deceptive means” in his personal life as a way to get close to 30 children, according to police allegations, says The Guardian. He then shared the children with his partner who also allegedly abused them.
Altogether the ring members have been charged with 828 counts of sexually abusing children, producing and distributing child abuse material and bestiality, said Australian Federal Police (AFP) Assistant Commissioner, Justine Gough.
Operation Arkstone, as the ongoing investigation has been named, has identified 46 Australian victims between the ages of 16 months and 15 years.
Still ongoing, Operation Arkstone has identified 46 child victims across Australia and led to the arrest of 14 men on 828 charges of child exploitation, and bestiality charges related to four animals. pic.twitter.com/RwLhLYcPLy
— AFP (@AusFedPolice) November 11, 2020
“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,” said Gough. “Sadly and heartbreakingly, this has been the case for the victims.”
Police made 18 referrals to the United States according to Gough, and three men there have been arrested for multiple offences related to child abuse material, while a further 128 ‘matters’ were referred to authorities in Canada, Asia, Europe and New Zealand for investigation.
“Police began arresting the men in February, with the latest arrest on Friday. They say each arrest and warrant led to the discovery of more alleged offenders and more children needing to be saved from ongoing abuse,” says The Guardian’s report.
The AFP received the initial tip-off from the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in February 2020 — it alerted them that a man in New South Wales was uploading child abuse material, according to Gough.
A 30-year-old man was arrested in Wyong, a town north of Sydney, and when police searched his computer they discovered the social media forums he was a member of.
Gough said that the group used the ‘regular internet’ and the dark web to share child abuse material and added that “it’s a very, very large investigation that [they’ve] uncovered.”
Chris Woods, AFP’s acting commander of child protection operations, said the scale of this child sex abuse ring was unprecedented.
“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,” he said.
Adam Parks, the US Homeland Security Investigations attached based in Australia, declined to comment on the arrests made in the United States because prosecutions are currently underway.
Parks also did not say where the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received its initial tip from, but he told AP that such tips came from American social media companies most of the time when they report finding abusive material on their platforms.
At the most extreme end, some of the offenders allegedly inflicted acts of sexual abuse on Australian children, ranging in age from 16 months to 15 years, and recorded and circulated the material across a number of online platforms. pic.twitter.com/jlPGMuiUpb
— AFP (@AusFedPolice) November 11, 2020