A tip from U.S. authorities has exposed a major child sex abuse ring in Australia with links to the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand, police said on Wednesday.
A childcare worker and a children’s soccer coach were among 16 men arrested in the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia in recent months on 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.
“No child should be subjected to abuse and violence from the individuals they trust, whether that is a family member, a childcare worker, or a soccer coach,” Gough said. “Unfortunately and heartbreakingly, this has been the case for the people in victims” abused in Australia.
Police referred 18 “matters” to the United States, where three men have been arrested for numerous related to child abuse material, Gough said.
Another 128 matters were referred to experts in Canada, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand for investigation. Police have not explained those charges.
The U.S. Public Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a government-funded non-benefit, 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 person in Wyong, a town north of Sydney, and a search of his computer revealed social media forums he was part of.
The ring used “the regular internet” just as the dark web to share material, Gough said.
“It’s an extremely, enormous investigation that we’ve uncovered,” Gough said.
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 didn’t state where the initial tip to the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children came from, however, he said such tips typically come from U.S. social media organizations that report finding abusive material on their platforms.
This article is originally published on globalnews.ca