An Adelaide man, 68, who remotely instructed and recorded the sexual abuse of children on 55 occasions over webcam has been sentenced to 15 years in jail.
The investigation led to the rescue of 15 victims in the Philippines and the arrests of five women accused of facilitating the “horrific” abuse, some of whom are the mothers and relatives of the victims.
The predator had pleaded guilty in February 2021 to 50 offenses between March 2018 and January 2020, but was charged with further offenses as investigations uncovered more information.
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Police believe the youngest child was aged just three when they were first abused.
Thirteen children and two young adults were removed from harm in the Philippines following a major investigation by Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force, SA Police, Anti-Child Exploitation teams, and multiple agency partners in the Philippines.
AFP Commander Erica Merrin said: “Children are being forced into the most appalling violence and torment on camera by the people who are meant to love and to protect them.
“The abuse is then live-streamed to customers in Western nations, shamefully that includes Australia.
“This Adelaide man did not just watch children being hurt – he ordered specific abuse to happen and preyed on the economic vulnerability of the people involved.”
The five alleged facilitators were aged between 18 and 29 at the time.
“One of the women charged was then an 18-year-old who was allegedly offering three girls online to offenders – her nine-year-old niece, 12-year-old cousin and 18-year-old best friend,” the AFP said.
The Adelaide man was first caught at Melbourne Airport with child abuse material on his mobile phone by Australian Border Force officials as he returned to Australia on an international flight in February 2020.
A forensic examination of the man’s digital storage devices “uncovered horrific footage of sexual acts involving children”, and police found more than 55,000 images and videos of child abuse material.
The man was charged over the illegal content.
Further investigation found that the man “communicated with adult ‘facilitators’ in the Philippines to procure several children for his depraved requests,” AFP said.
“The children were forced to perform sexually explicit acts on camera which he watched live from his suburban Adelaide home. “
He was charged with the additional offenses in April 2020.
In November 2020 and May 2021, the AFP obtained a restraining order in relation to the property where many of his internet-based offenses allegedly took place.
He was ordered to pay a total of $165,000, half of what his home was worth. This was the first time the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) had sought to confiscate the home of a person charged with sex offences.
This is because he was allegedly using his property as “an instrument of crime”.
The AFP worked with its partner agencies in the Philippines, including the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC), to continue the investigation there.
Philippines authorities executed search warrants at multiple locations in Bislig City, a remote area in the country’s east, in August 2020.
“The rescues and arrests are a powerful reminder of why the AFP works closely with partners around the globe, sharing intelligence and the resources necessary to target anyone who preys on children, no matter where in the world they are hiding,” AFP International Command Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins said.
The Adelaide man has been sentenced to a total of 15 years, three months and 19 days’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 10 years, for the commonwealth offences, as well as nine months for a state offence. They will be served cumulatively.