AUSTRALIAN POLICE ARREST 44 MEN IN CHILD ABUSE INVESTIGATION. Some 16 children removed from harm in Operation Molto
October 23, 2020
Australian Federal Police (AFP) have arrested 44 men across the nation on the charges of possessing and producing child abuse material.
Dubbed Operation Molto, the probe was coordinated by the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) and has reportedly removed 16 children from harm after identifying alleged offenders in every Australian state, as well as the Australian Capital Territory.
Culminating in 350 charges on the alleged perpetrators, the year-long operation began when the ACCCE received a law enforcement report showing thousands of offenders were using a cloud storage platform to share what the AFP described as "abhorrent" child abuse material online.
The ages of the accused ranged from 19 to 57, with occupations including construction, transport, law enforcement and hospitality, police said.
Commissioner Reece Kershaw said identifying and rescuing victims was a "race against time" in such cases. "Pixel by pixel, our investigators painstakingly look for clues and never give up," he said.
An earlier sting in 2015 — Operation Niro — had dismantled an international organised paedophile syndicate. It had led to the arrest of a man who was caught producing specific child abuse material. Some of those arrested recently, Mr Kershaw said, were allegedly found to be in possession of that same material.
Victoria and Queensland saw the most arrests, with 11 charged in each state, while a further nine were arrested in South Australia, eight in New South Wales and two in Western Australia.
"Children are not commodities and the AFP and its partner agencies work around-the-clock to identify and prosecute offenders," Mr Kershaw said.
He said that as a result of all AFP investigations, 134 children were removed from harm — 67 domestically and 67 internationally — between July 2019 and June 2020.
Country’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was quoted by the Brisbane Times as saying that the sexual abuse and exploitation of children had become more global, prevalent and extreme.
“Technological advances, such as end-to-end encryption, pose significant challenges for law enforcement," Mr Dutton said. “I commend the dedication of our specialists who work tirelessly to ensure these crimes have no place in our society."
Message from Executive Director Laura A. Ahearn: Please visit our website at www.crimevictimscenter.org for news, information and resources in your community.