SYDNEY, Australia: Australian authorities have busted a gang involved in child pornography and abuse, including a 31-year-old Sydney man who filmed himself sexually abusing young children and shared the footage online. The investigation has now charged 14 men in NSW, three in Queensland and three in Western Australia.
The group faces a total of 1,026 charges related to child sexual abuse and in some cases, bestiality.
The St Clair man was charged on Thursday with 152 charges, including multiple counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10 years.
He was initially arrested in May 2020 in a large-scale investigation into a global network of alleged child sex predators.
The St Clair man is now facing nearly 200 charges, including some related to bestiality.
He has been charged with one count of possessing or controlling child abuse material obtained or accessed using a carriage service.
The Willoughby man is the 20th man arrested in Operation Arkstone.
“No one nation is immune to the threat of child sexual abuse and no one nation can tackle it alone,” she said.
“Sadly, there are victims and child sex offenders throughout the world.”
Since Operation Arkstone began in early 2020, there have been 53 children removed from further harm in Australia, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said.
Nearly 150 international referrals have been made with police in Europe, Asia, North America and New Zealand.
Three alleged offenders have since been arrested in the USA, and one in Canada.
The ring was exposed when AFP investigators examined the phone of a man from Wyong on the NSW Central Coast.
AFP Commander Hilda Sirec said child exploitation has got worse during the pandemic.
“We need to remove these children from harm and importantly, with law enforcement in Australia and across the globe, we must arrest those who carry out these heinous crimes,” she said.
“As a society we still find it too confrontational to talk about child sexual abuse and exploitation. So we must have more conversations with the community and inform them that this crime is more pervasive and wide-spread than realised.”
He was charged with 44 child abuse offences, including multiple counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10 and is now facing a total of 196 charges relating to child sexual abuse and bestiality offences.
Operation Arkstone began in February 2020 following a report to the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation from the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about an online user allegedly distributing and receiving child abuse material online.
AFP investigators uncovered the network of alleged offenders when examining a mobile phone seized from an NSW Central Coast man during his arrest for abuse offences.
He was charged with one count of possessing or controlling child abuse material obtained or accessed online and using a carriage service, contrary to section 474.22A of the Criminal Code. He will appear in Downing Centre Court on April 15.
Since Operation Arkstone began, there have been 53 children removed from further harm in Australia.
The AFP says it’s also made 146 referrals to law enforcement agencies around the world.
Investigators have been sharing intelligence and working with counterparts in Europe, Asia, the US, Canada and New Zealand to identify offenders and children in need of rescue.
AFP Commander Hilda Sirec said every day that police could not identify a child being harmed was another day of potential abuse.
“We need to remove these children from harm and importantly, with law enforcement in Australia and across the globe, we must arrest those who carry out these heinous crimes,” Commander Sirec said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of child exploitation has increased.
“Australia has stood shoulder to shoulder to help combat the Covid-19 pandemic. We also need the country to use the same sense of purpose and urgency to help fight the exploitation of children,” she said.