KEY POINTS

  • The alleged offenders shared abhorrent child abusive material across a cloud storage platform
  • Some of the suspects are accused of making their own child exploitation videos
  • An earlier sting by the Australian Police dismantled an international paedophile syndicate

child abuse Representational image Photo: Flick/Tjook

A year-long probe by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has saved 16 children and prosecuted 44 alleged sex offenders after uncovering an Internet pedophile ring that was sharing child abuse images on the dark web.

The police describe the content shared by the alleged abusers as abhorrent. The confiscated material from the offenders even include a horrific video of a pervert raping an 18-month-old.

Codenamed as "Operation Molto", the child abuse task force of AFP was launched last year based on an international tip-off about the widespread sharing of child abusive content across a "cloud storage" platform.

“The traffic to dark web forums hosting child abuse material had more than doubled since last year, with websites regularly crashing under the demand,” said Assistant Commissioner Lesa Gale told The Daily Telegraph.

Lesa added that in addition to the spike in the number of videos and pictures shared, the content was turning darker.

As part of "Operation Molto", 11 men were arrested with 105 offences in Victoria and six children were rescued from harm. In New South Wales, eight men were arrested with 49 offences and one child rescued. In Queensland , 11 alleged were charged with 114 crimes with two children rescued. In South Australia, nine men are now facing 67 charges with six children removed from harm and in Western Australia, two people were arrested with seven offences.

Some of the alleged perpetrators are accused of making their own child exploitation videos. Several others were in possession of materials made by a man previously arrested in 2015 as part of an earlier sting called “Niro”. Operation Niro was a crackdown on an organised international pedophile syndicate in 2015.

AFP Commmissioner Reece Kershaw told The Sydney Morning Herald that arresting the offenders and putting them before the court is only half the battle. He assured that defending the victims remain their foremost priority. He also confirmed to the media that ACCE’s victim identification team is relentlessly working toward identifying and rescuing them.

Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton recently revealed in the Parliament that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of reports on child exploitation material made to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE). ACCE received 21,000 reports of child abusive material from July 2019-June 2020, as compared to 14,000 reports the previous year.