Friday, June 21, 2024

14 children rescued in AFP sex abuse raid in Philippines

Fourteen children – aged two to 17 – have been rescued from an alleged child sexual abuse nest in the Philippines following investigations by the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

The children – six girls and eight boys – were removed from harm after the AFP International Command Philippines provided intelligence to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC) and engaged Philippine National Police.

Three women and a man were arrested in Bombom, Camarines Sur, for their alleged roles as facilitators of online child sexual abuse.

Investigators from the Victorian Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET), comprising AFP and Victoria Police, referred information to the AFP International Command in the Philippines after charging a 68-year-old man from regional Victoria in March with possession of child abuse material, who then engaged Philippines Authorities.

The maximum penalty for the offence is 15 years’ imprisonment.

AFP Commander Todd Hunter, Commander Investigations Southern Command said the linked investigations across two countries highlight the enhanced cooperation between the AFP and its partner agencies in Australia and globally to fight online sexual exploitation.

“Our investigators are dedicated to protecting children in Australia from abuse and work with law enforcement across the world to do the same,” Commander Hunter said.

“Our message to offenders accessing or exchanging child abuse material online is that we will never stop trying to identify anyone involved in bringing harm to children and bringing them before the court.”

A computer seized from the man contained child abuse material and records of online chat conversations allegedly facilitating ‘pay-per-view’ child abuse content in the Philippines, police have alleged in court in Victoria.

Among the evidence seized by Philippines authorities last week were digital devices containing several child sexual exploitation materials; a sex toy; and several money transfer receipts showing foreigners as senders.

The child victims have been placed in the care of a local social welfare office.

Philippine National Police Chief of the Women and Children Protection Centre, Brigadier General Alessandro Abella said Philippines police were committed to collaborating with international law enforcement agencies to bring this borderless crime to an end.

“Our pursuit to rescue and protect children from online sexual exploitation will not stop until we have arrested the last trafficker and abuser doing this vile crime,” he said.

The investigation into the 68-year-old Australian man was linked to an earlier Victorian JACET arrest of a man charged by the AFP for allegedly paying for live-distance child abuse.

Police traced the initial arrest to the Philippines, which led to the rescue of nine children, aged two to 16, and the arrest of a woman by Philippine authorities.

“As of 10 May 2021, and since its inception in February 2019, the PICACC has undertaken 119 operations which have resulted in the rescue of 386 victims, 88 suspects/facilitators charged and 13 offenders convicted,” the AFP said.

Of these, 39 suspects arrested/charged and the rescue of 149 victims in the Philippines are a direct result of AFP International Command facilitating referrals emanating from Australian based investigations or intelligence leads.

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

You can also make a report online by alerting the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation via the Report Abuse button.

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