Australian police said Wednesday they had uncovered a major child abuse ring with links to Europe, Asia and the United States.
Seventeen men, including a childcare worker and a children’s soccer coach, were arrested as part of a monthslong investigation, Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough said.
They’ve been charged with a total of 828 offenses, including sexually abusing children and producing and sharing child abuse material.
“No child should be subjected to abuse and violence from the people they trust, whether that is a family member, a childcare worker or a soccer coach,” Gough said.
“Sadly and heartbreakingly, this has been the case for the victims” abused in Australia.
Global abuse ring
Investigators said they had identified 46 victims in Australia between the ages of 16 months and 15 years.
Gough said police had referred 18 matters to the US, resulting in three of the 17 arrests. The rest of the men were detained in the Australian states of New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland.
Police said they had also referred 128 matters to authorities in Canada, New Zealand, Europe and Asia, without elaborating on those allegations.
Tip from the US
Gough said the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a government-funded nonprofit, had passed on information to Australian police in February that kickstarted their investigation.
The tip led them to a 30-year-old man from a town north of Sydney. A search of his computer allegedly revealed that he was part of a ring that used “the regular internet” as well as the dark web to share child abuse material, Gough said.
Australian police have not ruled out the possibility of more arrests. Meanwhile, the US Homeland Security Investigations attache to Australia, Adam Parks, said there were several probes underway in the United States.
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