AFP investigation in Sydney and Philippines leads to rescue of a girl

A joint investigation between the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the International Justice Mission (IJM) has resulted in the arrest of a woman and rescue of a young girl believed to be the victim of live-streamed child abuse involving a Sydney man.

The investigation stems from a referral from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) in July 2019. The referral related to an Australian user who had uploaded child abuse material to social media. The user was subsequently identified as being a NSW-based man.

AFP investigators from the NSW Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET) subsequently commenced Operation Culgoa, an investigation into the 63-year-old Sydney man and possible offenders and victims residing in the Philippines.

On 18 September 2019, NSW JACET investigators executed a search warrant at the man’s home in the Greater Sydney suburb of North Rocks, where they seized electronic devices allegedly containing child abuse material.

The 63-year-old man was arrested and charged with:

  • 1 x Procuring child to engage in sexual activity outside Australia, contrary to section 272.14 of the Criminal Code (Cth) – carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment;
  • 1 x Use a carriage service to solicit child pornography, contrary to section 474.19 of the Criminal Code (Cth) – carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment;
  • 1 x Transmit child pornography material, contrary to section 474.19 of the Criminal Code (Cth) – carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment;; and
  • 3 x Possess child abuse material, contrary to section 91H of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) – carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

He is next due to appear in the Parramatta Local Court on 22 November 2019.

Police will allege that the man communicated with people offshore to procure the children – via a trusted adult – to produce and transmit child abuse material at his request. Further arrests cannot be ruled out.

Due to the suspected offshore offending, the AFP requested international assistance via the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC) and a PNP investigation commenced.

On 25 October 2019, PNP officers, accompanied by the AFP, attended a premises in the city of Rizal, about a two hours’ drive from Manila. There, the PNP arrested a 39-year-old woman and rescued a 12-year-old girl.

The AFP’s Senior Officer in Manila, Federal Agent Andrew Perkins, said the international investigation demonstrated the importance of cross-border collaboration to stop the abuse of children.

“Today’s outcome demonstrates the commitment of the AFP, the PNP and our international partners to protect children no matter where they live.

“Sadly there is an appetite for child abuse material online which leads to vulnerable children becoming pawns in a form of abuse that can have devastating impacts.

“The arrest and rescue sends a strong message that, if you are taking part in this vile industry, law enforcement will find you.” Federal Agent Perkins said.

Investigations continue and charges are expected to be formally laid against the woman in the near future. The girl has been placed into the care of the Philippines’ Department of Social Welfare and Development.

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