Australian Police swoop on Net pedophile ring

The Australian Federal Police has confirmed an arrest was made in Victoria yesterday following raids on an international Internet pedophile ring and said it has other suspects in its sights.
Written by Rachel Lebihan, Contributor
The Australian Federal Police has confirmed an arrest was made in Victoria yesterday following raids on an international Internet paedophile ring and said it has other suspects in its sights.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) confirmed it was involved in yesterday's global police swoop, dubbed Operation Landmark, on Net paedophiles and said an arrest was made by the Victorian Police and that there was an "address of interest" in South Australia.

The Victorian Police said a 23-year old man was arrested in Rowville late yesterday afternoon as part of the international investigation into Internet paedophilia, which spanned 19 countries, and was charged with possession of child pornography.

The South Australian Police confirmed that it was also involved in the investigation.

"We attended an address in Adelaide's Northern suburbs and seized computer equipment for forensic examination," spokesperson Roberta Heather said.

Heather would not confirm how many suspects were targeted at the address or if the SA Police were looking to raid other locations but said it was her understanding that it could take a "couple of months" for forensic examination of the seized computer equipment to be complete.

Andy Hughes, AFP's general manager, International and Federal Operations, said the AFP had taken a "coordination role" in the Australian raids and denied news reports that there were seven local suspects in total.

However, Hughes said: "From our experience in the past, once people have been interviewed, equipment examined and overseas Internet Service Providers have provided information it tends to generate other avenues of inquiry."

This is the second Internet pedophile ring the AFP has been involved in investigating this month, according to Hughes.

Earlier this month a search warrant was issued and computer equipment seized in South Australia. The paedophilia ring originated from Germany and the investigation emanated from US customs. "These are really global responses to global problems," Hughes said.

Hughes said that the time it takes to examine computer equipment varied from case to case, depending on the level of security protection employed and the manner in which material is electronically stored. In-house police IT experts would be involved in accessing files, correspondence and analysing images.

"Face-mapping technology is available to us," Hughes said, adding that the technology would be used where unique images were discovered in Australia.

"State Police would be very quick to use this technology to identify victims to ensure future risk is eliminated," Hughes said. However, if images that were seized that were duplicates of those found in Europe--the center of the latest pedophilia ring--face mapping technology would not be required here, Hughes added.

The National Crime Squad (NCS), which co-ordinated dawn raids on twelve British targets in the United Kingdom, said it will use face-mapping software to identify victims depicted in 60,000 pornographic images obtained through its raids.

Hughes said face mapping technology is relatively new to the AFP and has wider applications, such as identifying faces in crowds at airports, football crowds etc.

"Applications aren't as widespread here as in other countries as we don't have a similar scale of problems," Hughes said. However, "the technology is constantly being monitored to see where it can be applied in the Australian environment," he added.

Staff writer Rachel Lebihan reported from Sydney.

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