Federal police have arrested 65 Australians following a global investigation into a child abuse website.
Australian police executed more than 100 search warrants nationwide and laid nearly 400 charges against the accused as part of a sting into a child exploitation website operating out of Canada. The investigation was led by by the Toronto Police Service in Canada and to date, more than 300 people have been arrested.
A Cowra school teacher is one of nine men from New South Wales arrested as part of a world-wide investigation into the exploitation of children online.
The 42 year old was charged in July with possessing child abuse material and using a carriage service to access child pornography, and another 42-year-old Emu Plains teacher arrested on August 7.
A 72-year-old retired Catholic priest was arrested at Lake Haven on the Central Coast on August 20 and a 57-year-old priest was arrested at The Rocks on July 29.
They have all been charged with possessing child abuse material and using a carriage service to access child pornography and remain before the courts.
A teacher employed by an Adelaide eastern suburbs Catholic school has faced court on child pornography charges. The 68-year-old man cannot be identified publicly. He was suspended from his role at the school after his arrest in August.
In an appearance in the Magistrates Court, the man did not enter pleas to charges of possessing and accessing child pornography. He is expected to answer the charges next month. It is not clear whether the allegations involve any students, but the school has advised parents about the matter.
As well as the arrests in New South Wales, five Victorians, 33 Queenslanders, five people in Western Australia, one in the ACT and 12 in South Australia were taken into custody.
Canada leads investigation
The Commander of Toronto’s Sex Crimes Unit, Inspector Joanna Bevan says police first made contact with a Canadian man in October 2010, who was sharing very graphic images of young children being sexually abused.
“The investigation revealed this individual was running an exploitation movie, production and distribution company from an address within the city of Toronto where customers from around the world could place orders to have movies sent to them through the mail or through the internet,” she said.
Details of the three-year international investigation were announced overnight by the lead agency in Toronto.
“This is a great triumph for Australian law enforcement who worked closely alongside international partner agencies to bring the Australian-based users before the courts,” the AFP said in a statement.
Toronto police said the child pornography bust led to the arrest of 341 people and rescue of 386 sexually abused children around the world.
Toronto Police Service Chief William Blair told a media conference that undercover officers made contact in October 2010 with a Toronto man suspected of sharing child pornography.
Their investigation led to a company believed to be producing and distributing “child exploitation videos and images over the internet,” said a police statement.
The 42-year-old’s home and business were raided seven months later and he was charged with operating a website that sold and distributed child pornography. Police said the man “paid various people to film children for the purpose of creating movies for sale on his website.”
The website Azovfilms.com allegedly earned him Can$4 million ($A4.08 million) annually.
Over 45 terabytes of data were seized. And police subsequently tracked down the website’s customers.
The United States Postal Inspection Service was involved in the probe, as were authorities in Sweden, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, among others.