Police in Australia have rescued 46 children and arrested 14 men after investigations into an international child abuse network led to arrests, including in the USA.
The victims, aged between 16 months and 15 years, were subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation and were rescued after a year-long investigation following a tip-off from U.S. investigators who were investigating an Australian Internet user. According to police, 16 of the children were rescued from a daycare center.
The 14 men arrested face a total of 828 charges, although investigators are not ruling out further arrests overseas, with suspects identified in Europe, Asia and Canada. Among the suspects is an employee of a day care center in New South Wales who had access to 30 children. Also arrested were a number of people who held positions in the community, including a volunteer soccer coach, a disabled person’s assistant, an electrician, a supermarket employee and a cook.
A 27-year-old man faces more than 300 charges, and his 22-year-old partner was also arrested.
Men in New South Wales have also been charged with sodomy involving four animals. The acting commander of the Australian Federal Police for Child Protection Operations, Christopher Woods, said the scale of the crimes was unprecedented.
“These men were allegedly producing child abuse material for the depraved pleasure of their peers without the slightest thought of the lasting effects their actions would have on these children,” Woods said. “Police will allege that Operation Arkstone uncovered an abuse network where the alleged perpetrators used the forums to encourage and encourage each other to engage in acts of child depravity and abuse.
The current investigation began after the arrest of a 30-year-old man in February in Wyong city, north of Sydney. Officers say his case, which led to him being charged with 89 offenses, has led them to social media forums where images and videos of abuse were distributed.
The Australian investigative attaché to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Adam Parks, said that several investigations are underway in the United States after three men were arrested in the country in connection with the investigation.
Last month a 46-year-old man was arrested in Vietnam and extradited to the United States on charges of sexual exploitation of children in Maricopa County, Arizona. Wade Astle, who was on the most wanted list of a county sheriff’s department in Arizona, was arrested after a worldwide operation by several authorities.