Adelaide resident accused of international 'sextortion' offences

A 25-year-old foreign national residing in Adelaide is due to face Adelaide Magistrates Court today (Thursday) accused of threatening to share intimate videos and images of a former partner, in one of the first sextortion cases led by the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

The man was arrested by AFP investigators yesterday at an inner city Adelaide home.

Police seized electronic devices, which are being forensically examined.

The man has been charged with:

  • one count of aggravated use of a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence involving the distribution of private sexual material, contrary to section 474.17A of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

The maximum penalty for this offence is five years imprisonment.

Police will allege the videos and images were taken consensually, but after the relationship ended, the man threatened to send footage and images to the woman's relatives and post them on social media.

AFP Superintendent, Crime Operations South Australia, Gail McClure alleged the man, who is a foreign national living in South Australia, told his victim that police would not be able to prosecute him because he was not an Australian citizen and she was living in a different country.

"This case shows it does not matter where you live, the AFP is uniquely positioned with officers based around the world and with strong international networks, to investigate and prosecute crimes conducted across international borders," Supt McClure said.

The AFP investigated this matter after receiving a referral from overseas law enforcement partners, with the alleged offender in Australia and the victim overseas.

Sextortion and image-based sexual abuse or 'revenge porn' cases are generally investigated by state and territory police, who may apply the Commonwealth legislation or their own relevant legislation.

Supt McClure said sextortion is a form of blackmail where someone threatens to share intimate images of you online unless you give in to their demands.  These demands are typically for money, more intimate images, sexual favours, revenge or in an effort to embarrass or humiliate the victim.

"Online threats of this nature can be devastating for victims, and the AFP encourages people who fall victim to these despicable acts to report the matter to police," she said.

"Our message to people in this situation is that nothing is so bad that you can't tell someone.  While it can be a complex and difficult situation, we want to reassure you that it is not your fault and there is help available."

Supt McClure said fear, coercion, and manipulation keep the crime going.

"In addition to the threats and coercion of the offender, victims often feel embarrassment or that they have done something wrong and will be punished by relatives or prosecuted by law enforcement if their actions are discovered," she said.

"Make no mistake, this behaviour is a crime and police will investigate any complaints about this type of online conduct."

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said image-based abuse can cause permanent harm, especially when it involves sextortion.

"At eSafety, we have helped more than 1700 victims have their intimate images removed from the internet since 2017, with a 90 per cent success rate in getting intimate images down from more than 150 overseas sites," she said.

"This is a growing problem and its inclusion in the Criminal Code reflects this."

In this situation, consider the following course of action:

  • do not send any more images
  • get support from a trusted friend or family member, or professional support services
  • giving into requests is not encouraged, once you have complied with their demands there is nothing preventing them targeting you again
  • collect as much evidence as you can, including screenshots, URLs or any other records
  • block the persons number/profile/email address (do this after collecting evidence)
  • report the matter to police
  • If you are worried about your physical safety, call Triple Zero (000) or contact your local police station.

If content has been posted online, report the site where content is hosted to the eSafety Commissioner (esafety.gov.au).

The AFP strongly believes that education and empowerment is key to protecting yourself against threatening, harassing or harmful online situations.  

Editor's note:

Image and video of the arrest courtesy of Australian Federal Police are available on Hightail.

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