Australian police say they have rescued 46 children and apprehended a 14-men ring involved in the Child abuse network. The minors were allegedly subjected to sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation. The investigation also resulted in three arrests in United States and had identified suspects in New Zealand, Europe, Canada and Asia. Biggest of its kind in Australia, the victims rescued were aged between 16 months and 15 years old, the Australian Federal Police AFP said. 16 of the victims had been sheltered in once childcare center.
The 14 men are now facing 828 charges of child exploitation as well as bestiality charges involving four animals. Authorities said the network had produced and shared videos and images of the victims over the web. One of the most serious cases involved a former employee of a childcare center in New South Wales where he had access to 30 children, said police. The 27-year old suspect faced over 300 charges including sexual abuse. His partner, 22 was also facing charges. Police said families of the children at the center had been informed.
Exposing the ring
The year-long investigation began following a tip-off from US investigators about an Australian internet user according to AFP. This was followed by an arrest of a 30-year old man in the town of Wyong, north of Sydney. He was charged with 89 offenses including the abuse of two kids. Police said the first investigations guided them to social media forums where videos were produced and shared.
“Each warrant led to the discovery of more alleged offenders and more children to be saved,” said the AFP in a statement on Wednesday.
The suspects aged between 20 and 48 included a volunteer soccer coach, an electrician, a supermarket employee, a disability care worker and a chef. Eight men were apprehended in New South Wales while three arrests were made in Western Australia and Queensland each. Police did not reveal the further details of investigations overseas.
“These men allegedly produced child abuse material for the depraved pleasure of their peers with absolutely no thought to the lasting effects their actions would have on these children,” said AFP Commander Christopher Woods.
“No child should be subjected to abuse and violence from people who hold high positions of trust in their lives, whether it be a family member, childcare worker or soccer coach.”
Last month, 44 men were arrested across Australia as a part of a separate child abuse investigation.