Operation Koala smashes major child abuse network

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has coordinated a UK response in smashing a global child sex offender network.

Nov 9, 2007
By Website Editor
Helen McEntee. Picture: PA Media

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has coordinated a UK response in smashing a global child sex offender network.

Earlier this month, 46 suspects were arrested across the country in operations involving 22 UK with more arrests expected in the near future.

Operation Koala was initiated in 2006 and involved the sexual abuse of children from a modelling website based in Italy. ‘Customers’ from all over the world were able to order tailor-made videos depicting the abuse.

The investigation was launched after a child abuse video, produced in Belgium, was discovered in Australia.

A Belgian perpetrator and two victims were identified. Consequently, the sole producer of the material, a 42 year old Italian national, was arrested. He was running a website on which he sold over 150 self-made, sexually explicit videos of young girls.

“The business had been running for eighteen months and generated considerable profits from around 2,500 customers worldwide,” said a CEOP spokesperson.

The abusive material was mainly produced in the Ukraine in the man’s private studio. Some material was filmed in Belgium and the Netherlands. One of the video’s sold by the Italian suspect shows a father sexually abusing his daughters of 9 and 11 years of age. ‘Customers’ of this website were able to order tailor made videos and some even travelled to the studio in order to watch and record the abuse, making their own private videos.

Following the initial arrest the Italian authorities forwarded all digitalised material, including ‘customer’ details to Europol and Eurojust. From here, the material was disseminated to the countries in which customers were identified.

“Our intelligence faculty analysed and developed the material and passed details of individual suspects to their local police forces who in turn initiated their own investigations,” said the centre’s chief executive Jim Gamble.

He said the Operation Koala has uncovered the “true meaning” of online child abuse; the exchanging of images in which real children were subjected to horrific sexual abuse, often to order.

Europol’s Deputy Director, Mr Mariano Simancas, said: “The key to the success of this operation is the provision of valuable data by Member States and crime analysis carried out by specialists in dealing with online child sex abuse cases. The quality of the intelligence reports has been praised by the countries involved and has been considered crucial in relation to obtaining search warrants.”

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