From horrific to extreme, the Australian Federal Police have announced that paedophiles are getting worse. Their behaviour, according to a three-year investigation into domestic paedophiles in which 121 men were arrested, showed that they were engaging in increasingly sadistic and violent activities, including the sexual torture of babies.
A tip-off from New Zealand about individuals using ‘Mega NZ’ led to a major paedophile ring being uncovered. 51 children were rescued. The operation spanned Australia, although a significant portion of the offenders and victims resided in Queensland.
Operation Molto arrested 55 offenders in Queensland, 18 in Victoria, 17 in New South Wales, 12 in South Australia, 8 in Western Australia, 3 in the ACT, and 2 in the Northern Territory.
The file-sharing platform ‘Mega NZ’ is a legitimate service that was being misused by the paedophile ring. The DropBox-style platform has been assisting police with their enquires.
Mega NZ describes itself as ‘secure cloud storage and communication’ featuring end-to-end encryption and secure file hosting with over 247 million users. Their goal is ‘to be the leading global cloud storage and collaboration platform, providing the highest levels of data privacy and security’.
“Mega NZ has been really great in coming forward and letting us know … they worked with NZ authorities really well on this,” said the Australian Federal Police Commander Hilda Sirec, from the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.
Sirec also spoke about the horrific material uncovered during the arrests.
“There was everything from different categories, but also some horrendous, violent, sadistic, sexual torture of infants. Some of the images were just horrid. Some of it was on the scale of torture offending that even our experienced investigators were surprised to see.”
It is thought that the increased severity of the offending has come from predators growing bored of content. The offenders were men aged between 18 and 61, arrested after 158 search warrants were issued.
The federal government has recently passed a set of surveillance laws designed to aid the Australian Federal Police and other organisations in hunting down, monitoring, and disrupting child sex rings. The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2021 was passed in August of 2021, vastly expanding police powers in the digital sphere.
Although politicians generally supported the stated spirit of the Bill – to hunt down child-sex rings – there remained concerns about the vague wording of the Bill would allow it to be broadly applied, well beyond the scope of these investigations.
“The work of police across Australia in rescuing these children shows that victims remain front of mind for law enforcement,” said Lesa Gale, Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner. “Viewing, distributing, or producing child abuse material is a horrific crime. Children are not commodities and the Australian Federal Police and its partner agencies work around the clock to identify and prosecute offenders.”