23 Australians arrested in global child porn network

Friday, December 12, 2008

Correction — December 22, 2008
This article previously stated that Mr Williams had been charged with six counts of sex with a minor girl and two of possession of child pornography material. He was not charged with any counts of sex with a minor, and only one of using a carriage service provider to view child pornography and one of possession of child pornography material.
A graphics showing the data obtained by Joyce and colleagues in 2006, revealing association between Child abuse + neglect (variable 1), borderline temperament (variable 2). (Spanish)

By virtue of 28 search warrants, the Australian Federal Police has charged and arrested 23 men across Australia of "trading images and videos of child abuse on the internet," being part of a global child pornography and video-sharing network involving people in 70 countries.

A Victorian QC, a NSW policeman, and a childcare worker are among the 19 arrested so far across NSW, Victoria and Queensland. As part of the international crackdown on the online child pornography ring, the AFP’s Child Protection Operations Teams seized some 500,000 images and 15,000 videos, which not only showed victims as young as 12 months old, but even filmed children being molested for more than two hours.

Retired former barrister, a Newham Victorian legal figure Neil James Williams QC, aged 74, was arrested by Australian Federal Police on October 22. Charged with one count of using a carriage service provider to view child pornography and one of possession of child pornography material, he appeared in the Bendigo's Magistrates' Court of Victoria and was released on granted bail, pending court hearing on March 4.

Sydney man Richard Ngon Fung Lee, aged 24, a waiter from Blakehurst, New South Wales, one of five men arrested and detained, was accused of "downloading and possessing child pornography," and six counts of child sex. He did not file a petition for bail, as Sydney's Central Local Court jurist Allan Moore adjourned the criminal lawsuit until next week. He will also be charged with having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

AFP Acting Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin said, "the videos seized as part of this operation have to be among the worst we have seen; in this case we haven't located any children that were depicted in these videos or these images in Australia; law enforcement does have tools, so we can get in and infiltrate these type of applications; if we are not knocking on your door this morning, then it could be tomorrow."

The year-long probe dubbed "Operation Resistance" began after information from the Brazilian Federal Police last December. The tip-off supplied from the DPF via the Interpol, had contributed to identification of more than 200 suspects in 70 countries forming the global internet sex network. The Age reported that "six other Victorians arrested are a 40-year-old Bell Park man, 27-year-old Maldon man, Rodney Peter Smith, a 56-year-old Altona man, a 66-year-old Northcote man, a 32-year-old Lovely Banks man and a 47-year-old Windsor man." Some of those arrested will appear before the Geelong Magistrates' Court of Victoria next year. Another 200 suspects have been identified worldwide.

Ambassador Schieffer on March 19 met Diet members of the New Komeito party about strengthening laws and increasing cooperation in the international fight against child pornography. Participants, left to right, were Yoko Wanibuchi, Akira Matsu, Akihiro Ota, the Ambassador, Toshiko Hamayotsu, and Kaori Maruya.

Amid the legal and practical issue of identifying the victims, the children appear to be based primarily in Eastern Europe, and North and South America. All the charges filed concern peer-to-peer (or P2P) network, with each carrying a 10-year imprisonment penalty for possession of child abuse instrument. AFP acting assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan said more charges and arrests are expected this week. Only two children in NSW had been removed from contact with suspects. The AFP's one year investigation has also resulted in over 300 people being arrested, including 131 people as part of 2008's Operation Centurion.

The police are urging anyone with information regarding overt or suspicious acts about child pornography to report the matter to the local police, or online through http://www.virtualglobaltaskforce.com.