Adelaide man jailed and 15 young victims rescued after international child abuse investigation

This is a joint release between Australian Federal Police, South Australia Police and Australian Border Force

Editor’s Note: Images of the arrests and rescues in the Philippines and of the man’s home, as well as audio grabs from AFP Det-Insp Rodger Braun, are available via Hightail 

*photos from the Philippines courtesy of Philippine National Police

Fifteen young victims have been rescued, a South Australian man jailed and five people arrested overseas, following an international investigation into the sexual abuse of children.

The Adelaide man, 68, who paid for children to be sexually abused while he watched on webcam, was sentenced to more than 15 years’ imprisonment by the District Court of South Australia today (3 August 2022).

He had pleaded guilty in February 2021 to 50 offences, which included charges relating to viewing, remotely instructing and recording the sexual abuse of children on 55 occasions between March 2018 and January 2020.  Police believe the youngest child was aged just three when they were first abused.

The man was prosecuted in Australia, and the victims and alleged facilitators identified in the Philippines as a result of an investigation by the Australian Federal Police, South Australia Police (SAPol), Australian Border Force (ABF), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

The case was also the first time that the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) sought to confiscate the home of a person charged with child sex offences pursuant to Commonwealth proceeds of crime and confiscation laws. The man was not accused of profiting from his crimes, but of allegedly using his property as an instrument of crime to commit serious offences.

In November 2020 and May 2021, the AFP sought, and obtained, Supreme Court of South Australia restraining orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in relation to the man’s unencumbered property, which was where many of his internet-based offences were alleged to have taken place.

The confiscation proceedings were settled in late 2021, resulting in the man paying the Commonwealth* $165,000 - which was half of what his home was worth, as assessed by an independent valuation. 

The Australian criminal investigation was launched in February 2020 after ABF officers examined the man’s baggage when he arrived in Melbourne on a flight from overseas.

They allegedly found child abuse material on his mobile phone and called in the AFP.

The man was charged over the illegal content and the case was allocated to the South Australia Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (SA JACET), the specialist taskforce comprising AFP and SA Police officers who investigate child exploitation offences in South Australia.

A digital forensic examination of the man’s data storage devices uncovered horrific footage of sexual acts involving children.

Police found more than 55,000 images and videos of child abuse material on his devices.

Further investigations by SA JACET found the man communicated with adult ‘facilitators’ in the Philippines to procure several children for his depraved requests. The children were forced to perform sexually explicit acts on camera which he watched live from his suburban Adelaide home.  

SA JACET arrested and charged the man with additional offences in April 2020.

The AFP’s International Command in the Philippines engaged Philippine authorities and referred intelligence about the identities of the people suspected of being involved in the abuse to the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC), of which the AFP is a partner agency.

This led to an investigation by Philippine authorities, resulting in the Philippine National Police Women and Children's Protection Centre, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Social Welfare and Development agencies, with the support of the AFP and International Justice Mission, executing search warrants at multiple locations in Bislig City, a remote area in the country’s east, in August 2020.

Thirteen children and two young adults were removed from harm and five women were arrested, accused of facilitating their exploitation and abuse for profit.

The alleged facilitators were aged between 18 and 29 at the time, and some are the mothers of the victims.

One of the woman charged was then an 18-year-old who was allegedly offering three girls online to offenders – her nine-year-old niece, 12-year-old cousin and 18-year-old best friend.

The accused women remain before the courts in the Philippines.

AFP Commander Central Erica Merrin said the case highlighted the commitment of the AFP to work with partners to protect children around the world.

“Children are being forced into the most appalling violence and torment on camera by the people who are meant to love and to protect them. The abuse is then live streamed to customers in western nations; shamefully that includes Australia,” Commander Merrin said. “This Adelaide man did not just watch children being hurt - he ordered specific abuse to happen and preyed on the economic vulnerability of the people involved.”

AFP International Command Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins said child sex offenders were not restricted by national or international borders – but neither were law enforcement agencies.

“The rescues and arrests are a powerful reminder of why the AFP works closely with partners around the globe – sharing intelligence and the resources necessary to target anyone who preys on children, no matter where in the world they are hiding,” he said.

“We all have the same dedication to protecting children who do not have the means or mechanism to defend themselves.”

Philippine National Police Chief of the Women and Children Protection Centre, Police Brigadier general Edgar De Mayo Cacayan said close collaboration with the Australian Federal Police and other international partners should send a strong message to would-be child sex offenders.

“You will not buy and sell the sexual abuse of children in the Philippines,” Brigadier General De Mayo Cacayan said. “We will not allow it and we will be their guardians. “We will find you and you will have to answer for your actions in a court of law.”

ABF Chief Superintendent Bart England said today’s outcome sent a strong message of deterrence to those engaging with child abuse material in any way.

“The ABF will continue to use all resources at its disposal to counter this appalling activity. It is when we working together like this that we can achieve the most effective outcomes,” Chief Superintendent England said.

 The 68-year-old pleaded guilty to the below 50 offences.

  • Forty-one counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child outside Australia, contrary to section 272.9(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
  • Three counts of persistent sexual abuse of child outside Australia, contrary to section 272.11(1)  of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
  • Two counts of accessing child pornography using a carriage service, contrary to section 474.19(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
  • Accessing child abuse material, contrary to 474.22(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
  • Possessing child abuse material outside of Australia, contrary to section 273.6(1)(a) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
  • Obtaining child abuse material outside of Australia, contrary to section 273.6(1)(a)(ii) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth); and
  • Aggravated possession of child pornography material, contrary to section 63A of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA).

The man was sentenced to 15 years, three months and 19 days’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 10 years, for the Commonwealth offences.  He was also sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment for the State offence. The sentences will be served cumulatively and take into account time already served.

As of 31 July 2022, and since its inception in February 2019, the PICACC has undertaken 193 operations which have resulted in the rescue of 563 victims and 121 suspects/facilitators charged.

Of these, 43 suspects arrested/charged and the rescue of 165  victims in the Philippines are a direct result of AFP International Command facilitating referrals emanating from Australian based investigations or intelligence leads.

The Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Australian Federal Police, the United Kingdom National Crime Agency and the International Justice Mission established the PICACC in 2019 to strengthen Philippine and foreign law enforcement collaboration in combating online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines.

The National Police of the Netherlands has since become a member agency of the PICACC and the PICACC is further supported through increased participation of other Philippine domestic and foreign law enforcement agencies.

The CACT brings together the resources and expertise of the AFP, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC and Australian Border Force. Together, these agencies trace, restrain and ultimately confiscate criminal assets.

*The money confiscated in this matter was placed into the Commonwealth Confiscated Assets Account, from which funds are distributed by the Attorney-General (as Minister responsible) to support various initiatives, including those focused on the protection of children.

The AFP and its partners are committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation is driving a collaborative national approach to combatting child abuse.

The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into online child sexual exploitation and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.

Research conducted by the ACCCE in 2020 revealed only about half of parents talked to their children about online safety.

An award-winning podcast launched last year by the ACCCE 'Closing The Net' is working to change that, showcasing that knowledge is power and that our only chance to help prevent this issue is if we bring a 'whole-of-community' response.

The podcast series offers valuable tips and advice on how to keep kids safe online. Listen to the Closing The Net podcast on your favourite streaming platform.

If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available at www.accce.gov.au/support.

Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found at www.thinkuknow.org.au, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

Note to media:

Use of term ‘CHILD ABUSE’ MATERIAL NOT ‘CHILD PORNOGRAPHY’

The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.

Use of the phrase "child pornography" is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:

  • indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
  • conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.

Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.

Media enquiries

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If it doesn't add up, speak up. Call the National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

Read the AFP Annual Report 2020-21

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

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