Operation Arkstone Update: Additional 152 charges laid against Sydney man

Child_Exploitation

This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Police Force.

Editor's note: Vision of the arrests are available via hightail

A 31-year-old Sydney man will face a further 152 charges at Sydney Central Local Court today for allegedly sexually abusing young children and filming the abuse to share online.

The man from St Clair was initially arrested in May 2020 under Operation Arkstone, a large-scale investigation into a global online network of alleged child sex offenders.

He was charged with 44 child sexual abuse offences, including multiple counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10 years. He is now facing a total of 196 charges relating to child sexual abuse and bestiality offences.

Operation Arkstone began in February 2020 following a report to the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) from the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) about an online user allegedly distributing and receiving child abuse material online.

AFP investigators uncovered the online network of alleged child sex offenders when examining the mobile phone seized during the arrest of a Wyong man for alleged child sexual abuse offences, marking the first arrest for Operation Arkstone.

A 31-year-old North Sydney man has become the 20th man arrested as part of Operation Arkstone. AFP investigators executed a search warrant at his residence in Willoughby yesterday (17 March 2021).

The man was arrested and subsequently charged with one count of possessing or controlling child abuse material obtained or accessed using a carriage service, contrary to section 474.22A of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth). He is expected to appear in Downing Centre Court on Thurs. 15 April 2021.  

The investigation has now led to 20 men arrested in Australia with 14 men charged in NSW, three in Queensland and three in Western Australia.

The 20 men face a total of 1026 charges related to child sexual abuse and in some cases bestiality offences.

Since Operation Arkstone began in early 2020, there have been 53 children removed from further harm in Australia. 

As a result of evidence gathered during Operation Arkstone, the AFP made 146 international referrals to law enforcement agencies around the world.

AFP investigators have been sharing intelligence and working with their counterparts in Europe, Asia, United States and Canada, and New Zealand to identify child sex offenders and children in need of rescuing from further abuse.

U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has been integral in identifying the online network of alleged child sex offenders, which has now resulted in three arrests in the United States with inquiries continuing.  

The Kelowna Royal Canadian Mounted Police identified two young victims and charged one man with alleged sexual assault, sexual interference and possessing child abuse material.

AFP Commander Hilda Sirec said for every day that police could not identify a child being harmed is another day of potential abuse.

"We need to remove these children from harm and importantly, with law enforcement in Australia and across the globe, we must arrest those who carry out these heinous crimes,'' Commander Sirec said.

"As a society we still find it too confrontational to talk about child sexual abuse and exploitation. So we must have more conversations with the community and inform them that this crime is more pervasive and wide-spread than realised.

"And during COVID-19, the prevalence of child exploitation has gotten worse.

"Australia has stood shoulder to shoulder to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We also need the country to use the same sense of purpose and urgency to help fight the exploitation of children.

"No one nation is immune to the threat of child sexual abuse and no one nation can tackle it alone. Sadly, there are victims and child sex offenders throughout the world.''

"AFP investigators are sharing intelligence and working together with their domestic and international counterparts to stop child sex offenders from harming children.

"Our officers are continuing to identify alleged offenders through Operation Arkstone and like today's additional charges, will ensure every offence is accounted for, whether that person has three or 188 charges laid against them. No offence is too small when dealing with child sexual abuse." 

Commander of the State Crime Command's Child Abuse and Sex Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent Stacey Maloney said NSW Police are committed to working with fellow law enforcement agencies here and abroad to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. 

"We are proud to work with our Commonwealth and international partners to ensure that those responsible for causing children harm are held accountable for their actions," Det. Supt Maloney said.

"Through collaboration and a shared mission to keep kids safe, we will continue to see investigators put individuals responsible for the most heinous of acts before the courts and importantly off the street."

Members of the public who have any information about this network or people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

You can also make a report online by alerting the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation via the Report Abuse button.

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

AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297

NSW Police Media: (02) 8263 6100

National Security Hotline

Read the AFP Annual Report 2019-20

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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