Child exploitation raids

65,000 images seized in shocking 'boy lovers' network

MEN aged from 22 to 76 - including teachers, accountants, bank managers and tradies, were among the Queenslanders arrested as part of a global child exploitation ring.

Queensland police said more than 30 people have  been charged on more than 200 offences in what was described as a 'boy lovers' network.

During Operation Taskforce Argus there were 65,000 images.

In Canada, 45 terrabytes of data - all involving the abuse of young boys - the equivalent of 15,000 DVDS - was seized.

Police warned there was no way for people to really tell who among their community was at most risk of preying on children.

"There is no stereotype for this type of person - the idea of an old man living alone is wrong," Det Supt Cameron Harsley said.

In Queensland, the 32 facing charges were people aged between 22 and 76, with some employed as teachers, accountants, bank managers, carers or tradespeople.

"There is a spectrum of age, male and female.

"Personality wise, you would not be able to determine whether they were an offender or not.

"Some are very jovial, very friendly and very nice people - on the surface."

The children involved in the films were as young as seven or eight, but most were aged between 10 and 16 years old.

Det Supt Harsley said for every warrant police executed and for every person-of-interest interviewed, police had either arrested them or "are keeping an eye on them".

Breakdown of offenders by state:

NSW - 9
VIC - 5
QLD - 33
WA - 5
ACT - 1
SA - 12

A map showing the leads following in the global operation. Image: AFP
A map showing the leads following in the global operation. Image: AFP

65 Australians arrested and 399 charges laid as part of global sting

Sixty-five Australians have been arrested and 399 charges laid as part of a global investigation into a child exploitation website operating out of Canada.

A total of 339 suspects have been arrested worldwide, in one of the largest investigations of its kind by law enforcement agencies across the globe.

The age of Australian suspects range between 25 and 72.

The investigation began in 2010 when Toronto Police in Canada launched an undercover operation known as Project Spade following complaints of a website selling "naturist" films that were actually exploitation movies including young naked males from the Ukraine, Romania and Germany.

In February 2013, Task Force Argos - a Queensland Police operation - were contacted by their Canadian counterparts with a list of suspected Queenslanders involved.

Detective Superintendent Cameron Harsley said once authorities saw the list, it swiftly launched Operation Lima Stampede to "locate, investigate and prosecute" those who had been customers of the child porn site.

Investigators acted on 38 search warrants for homes from Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast to Atherton in the state's north.

Those charged included teachers, an accountant, a nurse and a carer.

The 33 Queenslanders are charged with a combined 209 offences, with some police raids securing thousands of DVDs that must now be reviewed.

"This case provides conclusive evidence that despite the best efforts of industry and law enforcement, the commercial sexual exploitation of children continues," Det Supt Harsley said.

"The Australians that have allegedly paid for these movies and images propagate the market for this material resulting in the ongoing sexual abuse of children, many from impoverished countries.

Under what is known as Operation Thunderer, the AFP and state and territory police subsequently conducted 103 search warrants across the country, arresting 65 people for 399 offences relating to child exploitation.

As a result of investigations 386 children have been removed from harm worldwide, including six in Australia.

The Australian suspects in this operation are aged between 25 and 72 years of age. They have been charged with a range of offences, including accessing, possessing, producing and distributing online child exploitation material.

AFP say raids a triumph in keeping kids safe

AFP Manager Cyber Crime Operations Glen McEwen says this investigation is a triumph for Australian law enforcement in their efforts to keep children safe.

"The AFP and state and territory police worked relentlessly alongside international partner agencies to bring these offenders to justice," Commander McEwen said.

"This global investigation has disrupted a wide-spread international network of suspects, in a powerful demonstration of law enforcement working together to protect children around the world.

"If you choose to view and circulate child abuse images, you will be investigated, pursued and charged, regardless of where you are located."

Further arrests and charges are anticipated as this operation continues.

Anyone with information on child exploitation matters is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


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