Police in West crack Philippine-based child sex abuse streaming ring
Child abuse investigators in Britain, the United States and Australia have dismantled an organised crime group that live-streamed child sexual abuse to order from the Philippines.
Britain's National Crime Agency said yesterday that an international investigation broke up the ring, resulting in 29 arrests of people in 12 countries who had paid to watch the abuse.
Police describe the use of webcams to stream live child abuse - especially from developing countries - as a "significant and emerging threat".
"Being thousands of miles away makes no difference to their guilt. In my mind they are just as responsible for the abuse of these children as the contact abusers overseas," said Andy Baker, the deputy director of the agency's command for child protection.
The investigation began after a routine visit to Timothy Ford, a registered sex offender in Britain. Police found a number of indecent videos on his computer and contacted child abuse investigators, touching off a global investigation in 2012.
UK authorities worked with the Australian Federal Police and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers as well as the International Justice Mission, a non-governmental group.
Together the agencies presented their data to authorities in the Philippines to identify offenders and victims.
The investigation - codenamed Operation Endeavour - identified 733 suspects and has resulted in some convictions, including Ford, who was sentenced in March to 81/2 years in prison.
The agency said Ford paid to watch the live abuse and had planned to move to the Philippines to set up an internet cafe.
Ford, who uses a wheelchair, and another man, Thomas Owen, had discussed travelling to the country together. Authorities in the Philippines issued three search warrants in 2012, and 15 children aged between six and 15 were rescued and placed in the custody of social welfare services.
Philippine police Senior Superintendent Gilbert Sosa, who heads an anti-cybercrime unit, said incidents of abuse have been monitored in Cebu, Manila and in the city of Angeles.
Poor parents allow their children to be sexually abused and watched by paying foreigners via the internet in exchange for US$100 to US$200, Sosa said.