KEY POINTS

  • Australian police announce child exploitation charges against 44 men.
  • The accused face 350 counts of possessing material that’s exploitive of children.
  • Separately, a 25-year-old is suspected of coercing minors into sexually explicit acts online.

Australian police said Friday that 44 men face hundreds of charges of possessing and producing abusive material involving children.

As part of Operation Molto, part of a nation-wide effort to crack down on child exploitation, the Australian Federal Police announced the men face 350 counts of possessing material that’s exploitive of children.

“Viewing, distributing or producing child exploitation material is a crime,” AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said in a statement. “Children are not commodities and the AFP and its partner agencies work around-the-clock to identify and prosecute offenders.”

The year-long operation began when investigators uncovered a cloud-storage platform used to share explicit material related to children. The AFP stated that the ages of the accused range between 19 and 57 years old. Nine children in total were removed from harm as part of the investigation.

Separately, child exploitation authorities in Western Australia state charged a 25-year-old man with “online sextortion” of 112 girls across the globe, including a 13-year-old girl in the United States.

The 13-year-old girl told police she met the suspect online as he was posing as a 15-year-old who started asking her questions of a sexual nature. Online conversations edited by the accused were made to show the girl admiring his fantasies and he threatened to show them to friends and family if she didn’t comply with his demands.

Authorities said the 25-year-old coerced the girl into appearing nude and performing sexual acts while others watched online.

"Make no mistake, this despicable behavior is a crime, help is available and police will investigate any complaints about this type of online conduct,” Detective Senior Constable Barry Duman said in a statement from Western Australia.

The suspect is due in court on Friday.

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