A global child sex ring with links to Europe, America and Asia has been busted in Australia with 16 alleged paedophiles facing over 800 charges.
The arrests in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia – that came after a tip off from US officials in recent months – include a childcare worker and a children’s football coach.
Between them, the accused are facing 828 charges of sexually abusing children, producing and distributing child abuse material and bestiality, Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough said.
Investigators identified 46 victims in Australia aged 16 months to 15 years.
Operation Arkstone was launched after the arrest of a 30-year-old man in Wyong on the NSW Central Coast in February (pictured), which led to further arrests of people accused to be operating a global child sex ring
‘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,’ Gough said.
‘Sadly and heartbreakingly, this has been the case for the victims’ abused in Australia.
Police referred 18 ‘matters’ to the United States, where three men have been arrested for multiple offences related to child abuse material, Gough said.
Another 128 matters were referred to authorities in Canada, Asia, Europe and New Zealand for investigation. Police have not elaborated on those allegations.
The U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a government-funded nonprofit, provided Australian police with their initial tip in February that a man in New South Wales was uploading child abuse material, Gough said.
Police arrested a 30-year-old man in Wyong, a town north of Sydney, and a search of his computer revealed social media forums he was part of.
Pictured: Police search the home of a suspect involved in an alleged child exploitation ring in Australia. Between the 16 men arrested they face 828 charges of sexually abusing children, producing and distributing child abuse material and bestiality
Pictured: Australian Federal Police officers seized a USB during their investigations
Following this, police arrested more people included a childcare worker, football coach, disability support worker, an electrician, supermarket employee and chef.
In some of the most extreme cases, offenders allegedly recorded the abuse of the children and shared the footage online.
The ring used ‘the regular internet’ as well as the dark web to share material, Gough said. ‘It’s a very, very large investigation that we’ve uncovered,’ he added.
There have been 16 arrests made over what investigators have labelled as allegedly ‘abhorrent’ systemic sexual abuse
Pictured: An iPad seized by Federal Police during investigations in Queensland
Australian Federal Police Acting Commander Child Protection Operations Christopher Woods said investigators and forensic specialists from the AFP, NSW Police and U.S. Homeland Security Investigation have spent most of 2020 working tirelessly to make each arrest.
He said victims were often identified through seemingly minor details in photos and videos and the analysis was ‘time-consuming and painstaking’ but ‘vital’ for the rescue of the children.
‘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.
‘Police will allege Operation Arkstone revealed a network of abuse, where the alleged offenders in the forums encouraged and emboldened each other to engage in acts of depravity and abuse of children.’
U.S. Homeland Security Investigations attache to Australia Adam Parks declined to comment on the three arrests in the United States because prosecutions were underway. There were several ongoing investigations in the United States, he said.
Parks did not say where the initial tip to the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children came from, but he said such tips typically come from U.S. social media companies that report finding abusive material on their platforms.
He described the pedophile ring as a global network ‘rooted in Australia.’