Customs arrests four men for online child sexual exploitation

Customs has arrested four men in separate investigations across the country in the past month for sharing child exploitation material online, sending a stark warning to other offenders that they will be tracked down and held accountable for this serious crime.

A 20-year-old Auckland man was arrested by investigators from Customs’ Child Exploitation Operations Team (CEOT) this morning (15 October), after being linked to exporting and distributing child sexual exploitation material on at least five occasions since July 2021.

He is scheduled to appear in the Manukau District Court this afternoon, and faces charges for knowingly exporting and distributing objectionable publications. This carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.

Customs also arrested two men in Christchurch last week. A 58-year-old Merivale man was arrested on 7 October, following reports from overseas authorities after a social media platform and cloud storage site reported him for uploading child exploitation material. He is charged with possessing and knowingly exporting objectionable publications.

A 38-year-old Rolleston man was arrested on 8 October after being reported by a social media platform for uploading child exploitation material to their site. He is charged with possessing and knowingly exporting objectionable publications.

On 23 September, Customs identified and arrested a 50-year-old man from Northland for sharing child sexual exploitation publications through an overseas social media platform, and possessing objectionable publications. He is charged with possessing and knowingly exporting objectionable publications.

Simon Peterson, Chief Customs Officer – Child Exploitation Operations Team, says these arrests serve as a warning to those who exploit and re-victimise children by sharing images or videos of their abuse across our borders, especially as people are increasingly online during lockdowns.

“Child sexual exploitation publications are the consequence of the very real and distressing exploitation and sexual abuse of children. Customs has been working tirelessly during this lockdown, with partners in the Police and Department of Internal Affairs, to track down offenders who prey on children in this way and hold them to account, even with COVID-19 restrictions in place.”

Any publication that promotes or supports the exploitation of children for sexual purposes is deemed an objectionable publication under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. Objectionable publications are also prohibited imports and exports under the Customs and Excise Act 2018. The maximum penalty for the importation or exportation of objectionable publications is ten years’ imprisonment.

If you have concerns or suspicions about someone who may be trading in or producing child sexual abuse images or videos, contact Customs confidentially on 0800 WE PROTECT (0800 937 768) or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. If you are, or know of, someone who is at risk or being abused, contact the Police immediately.

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