A global operation targeting individuals using social networking groups to exchange child abuse material has targeted 55 key suspects in 20 countries. The operation saw 12 children identified and removed from harm and a number of suspects arrested, said the International Police Agency.
An Alajuela man has been detained in the investigations by local agents.
Code named Laminar, the operation began in October 2010 as a covert online investigation by New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs Censorship Compliance Unit which alerted INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children team after identifying significant amounts of abusive and exploitative pictures being exchanged via social network sites, including Facebook, Socialgo, and grou.ps, and alerted international law enforcement agencies, INTERPOL said.
Working with the Child Exploitation Investigations unit of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity section, the investigation coordinated led to the identification of nearly 80 groups engaged in the display or distribution of previously seen and unseen child sexual abuse images, said INTERPOL. The investigation was conducted with the support and assistance of Facebook officials following the identification of key targets and their associated groups within their network.
Maarten Quivooy, general manager of New Zealand’s Regulatory Compliance Operations, said the Internet had destroyed jurisdictional boundaries and that protecting children was a global responsibility to which his department was committed.
“Trading in, or viewing these images is active offending because it involves real children often being abused both in real time and over time, and when these images of children being sexually abused are released onto the Internet, they live on forever,” said Quivooy.
“No crime impacts on us as society and as parents more deeply
than the abuse of innocent children by the people they should
be able to trust above all others. Terms such as kiddiporn and child pornography make the physical sexual abuse of a child appear consenting. No child is capable of consenting to sexual activity —therefore all sexual depiction of children is abuse,” he concluded.
Mick Moran, head of INTERPOL’s crimes against children section, said the operation once again demonstrated the need for international cooperation.
“It is said that the Internet has no boundaries, but that does not mean that laws do not apply, that people committing offenses online will not be identified. There is no safe environment or anonymous area for individuals who think that they can trade and publish child abuse images online, as proved once again by this operation which should serve as a warning to others – you will be caught,” said Moran.
“While disrupting these networks is a significant part of the investigation, what is more important is that innocent children and in some cases babies have been rescued from physical abuse,” added Moran.
“Operation Laminar demonstrates that when governments team up to attack the global distribution of images of child sexual abuse the success is real,” said John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“ICE will continue to work tirelessly with our international law enforcement partners to protect children wherever they live and to bring justice to criminals wherever they operate.”
The 55 key targets in Operation Laminar were identified as individuals who had actively created groups which distributed abusive material, posted images of infants under the age of 13 being abused, and had actively encouraged the sexual abuse of children through comments or video and photo postings.
In addition to Costa Rica, the 20 countries with identified targets are Australia, Bosnia, Brazil, Chile, England, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Tunisia, Turkey, the United States and Venezuela.