A 25-year-old foreign national living in Adelaide has been remanded in custody accused of threatening to share intimate images of his former partner.
The man was arrested by Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigators at a home in Adelaide’s inner-city area yesterday and electronic devices were seized.
It is one of the first sextortion, or ‘revenge porn’ cases investigated by the AFP.
The man faced the Adelaide Magistrates Court this morning charged with an aggravated count of using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence involving the distributing of private sexual material.
The court heard he intends to contest the charge.
Commonwealth prosecutor Bonnie Russell told the court that the accused and victim were in an intimate relationship in the United Kingdom before a break-up.
She said the accused then moved to Australia on a two-year student visa in June.
“The defendant has contacted the victim in the UK and threatened to upload some of the videos and images that were taken in their intimate relationship,” she said.
She said the victim had since married.
The court was told that in August, the defendant called the victim’s husband and used the internet to show him screenshots of the intimate videos.
Ms Russell said about three months later, the accused called the victim and again threatened to upload the images, which were of a “private sexual nature”.
“Some of the screenshots have been sighted by authorities in the United Kingdom,” she said.
She said UK authorities notified the AFP, who then arrested the accused.
“The victim is quite distressed about the situation,” Ms Russell said.
Ms Russell said the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions opposed bail because of the risk that if released, the accused could access the ‘cloud’ and upload the images.
“There’s also the risk of flight, he has no strong ties to the community — he has been quite transient,” she said.
However, the duty solicitor, who represented the man, told the court that his client was studying in Adelaide and had strong friendship ties to the community.
She also said he was prepared not to use the internet and would give up his job as an Uber Eats driver — who rely on a digital app to deliver food — if the court ordered an internet ban.
Magistrate David McLeod adjourned the bail application until next month to give the AFP time to translate the messages from Nepalese.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Police: ‘Nothing is so bad that you can’t tell someone’
AFP Superintendent Gail McClure said the man told the woman that police would not be able to prosecute him because he was not an Australian citizen and she was living in a different country.
“This case shows that it does not matter where you live, the AFP is uniquely positioned with officers based around the world and with strong international networks, to investigate and prosecute crimes conducted across international borders,” she said.
Sextortion is a form of blackmail when someone threatens to share intimate images of someone online unless their demands are met.
Superintendent McClure said the demands were typically for money, more intimate photos, sexual favours or to seek revenge.
“Online threats of this nature can be devastating for victims, and the AFP encourages people who fall victim to these despicable acts to report the matter to police,” she said.
“Our message to people in this situation is that nothing is so bad that you can’t tell someone.
“While it can be a complex and difficult situation, we want to reassure you that it is not your fault and there is help available.”
Superintendent McClure said revenge porn was a growing problem and fear and manipulation kept the crime going.
“Victims often feel embarrassment or that they have [done] something wrong and will be punished by relatives or prosecuted by law enforcement if their actions are discovered,” she said.
“Make no mistake this behaviour is a crime and police will investigate any complaints about this type of online conduct.”
According to the eSafety Commission, it has helped more than 1,700 victims have their images removed from the internet since 2017.