Global child sex ring spanning 100 countries and 5,000 people from US to India busted
NEW DELHI, INDIA: India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested seven people on Wednesday, November 24, as part of a nationwide crackdown on a suspected international online child sex exploitation network.
The CBI revealed how raids were conducted following the discovery of an online child sex abuse operation involving more than 50 syndicates and 5,000 individuals spread across 100 countries. Agency sources told online newspaper The Print that the nexus had engaged in the online distribution of child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) for monetary gain.
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Sources said the illicit operation was discovered by the CBI following “intensive intel collection and surveillance in the remotest areas of the country over a period of three months," after which the agency conducted raids at multiple locations on November 14, including Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi.
In a statement, the CBI revealed the seizure of numerous laptops, mobile phones, and other electronic gadgets during the raids, lodging a whopping 23 cases against 83 people. Nine people have been arrested thus far, and more arrests are imminent per a CBI source. The initial inputs were obtained by the Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention/Investigation (OCSAE) unit of the CBI, which was set up in 2019 to track and monitor posting, circulation, and downloads of CSEM on the internet, according to The Print.
Sources with knowledge of the investigation told the newspaper noted how authorities followed a money trail of e-wallets and bank accounts to track down the accused. While the actual amount involved in the nationwide racket is yet to be disclosed, sources confirmed that foreign funds were also tracked in the operation. “The accused were disseminating the child abuse content online through links, videos, pictures, texts, posts, and hosting such things on social media platforms,” they said.
An FIR lodged against a group of individuals in Jhansi stated that “individuals based in different parts of India and foreign countries” were “circulating, storing and viewing child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) [using] social media groups/platforms and third-party storage/hosting platforms," according to The Print, which accessed the documents.
Sources further revealed that the suspected child sexual abuse network crossed international borders and involved people from Pakistan, the US, Canada, the UK, Nigeria, Ghana, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Yemen, Malaysia, and Indonesia, among other countries. “This is part of a larger nexus,” one insider told the newspaper. “Thirty-six of the phone numbers identified have been detected in Pakistan, 35 in Canada and the UK, 31 in Bangladesh, 30 in Sri Lanka, 28 in Nigeria, 27 in Azerbaijan, 24 in Yemen, and 22 in Malaysia,” the source added. The CBI is now reportedly working with foreign law enforcement agencies and Interpol to get to the root of the international network. Meanwhile, the agency also sought help from social media websites and hosting platforms to aid the investigation.