The investigation resulted in the rescue of 146 children around the world, including six in New Zealand and 79 in Britain. In Australia, 51 children were taken to safety in six states, including 23 in Queensland and 10 in South Australia.
In one case, each in Austria and Hungary, the suspects were charged with abusing their own children, who were 6 and 8 years old. And in Spain, a suspect possessed and distributed material about child sexual exploitation while secretly making sexual images of adults without their consent, officials said.
In some cases, those arrested on charges of possession of the material were later charged with more serious crimes. An unidentified perpetrator in New Zealand’s South Island later admitted that, according to New Zealand authorities, he had “used child exploitation material for over 20 years, as well as other forms of harmful material such as bestiality and torture”.
The perpetrator had traveled to Asia and paid families there to shoot images of their children being sexually abused for financial gain, the investigation found.
“Although the perpetrator denied committing sexual exploitation abroad, it is likely from the information obtained that he was a sex tourist,” said a spokesman for the New Zealand Ministry of Home Affairs.
In Britain, National Crime Agency agents arrested 450 people on charges of using the platform, and those detentions often led to additional charges.
“Many of these activities took place during the Covid-19 lockdowns, when the majority of young people were at home and perpetrators had more time to target their victims online,” said Sarah Blight, a spokeswoman for the agency.
The agency found a pattern of perpetrators working in “positions of trust,” including in kindergartens and primary schools, in health care professions, as religious clergy or law enforcement officers. A suspect, who worked as a nighttime assistant at a children’s home, had hundreds of indecent images of children on his phone, officials said.