Taskforce takes down child porn ring

AFP to host virtual global taskforce conference in Sydney

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has joined forces with a global taskforce of enforcement agencies to break a network of commercial child pornography websites.

The Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) has arrested five key members of the network in the Ukraine and has shutdown their online activities.

Being hailed as “the most sophisticated international investigation of its type,” authorities from six countries worked together in Operation Basket to investigate the criminal organisation responsible for the advertisement and distribution of about 230 child exploitation websites.

The sites were selling commercial access to images and videos of children as young as three years old who had been subject to child sexual abuse, according to a statement from the AFP.

The operation began following leads from a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation, which had been underway since 2006. It ultimately identified 30,000 customers in 132 countries and led to hundreds of convictions in the United States, and 11 arrests in Belarus in 2008.

Chairman of the VGT and Australian Federal Police (AFP) national manager of high tech crime operations, Neil Gaughan, said the operation owed its success to international cooperation between agencies.

“This investigation is a prime example of Virtual Global Taskforce partners working together internationally to combat online child sexual exploitation anywhere, anytime,” he said in a statement.

“As online criminals become more technically savvy, their means of exploiting children becomes more sophisticated. This network was one of the most sophisticated commercial child exploitation networks we have seen and advertised atrocious images and videos of sexually exploited boys and girls.”

Gaughan later told Computerworld Australia the AFP had cooperated in the investigation through the covert purchase of some of the offending images and the provision of technical support to other members of the taskforce.

Participating countries and agencies include the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Belarus, Ukraine, INTERPOL and Europol.

The AFP is for the first time hosting the VGT Conference in Sydney, which will investigate new ways to combat increasingly sophisticated networks and emerging trends in online child abuse.

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More about: Australian Federal Police, etwork, Europol, Federal Police
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