"Hunters become the HUNTED."

Europol’s most wanted arrested for online sexual exploitation of children; 8 children rescued so far

CEBU, PHILIPPINES – Philippine authorities have captured EUROPOL’s most wanted criminal for the production and distribution of child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM) on the dark-web.

A 32 year old man, was arrested on 12 April 2019 in Cebu City where thousands of images, including videos depicting children being sexually abused by an adult, were found in his possession.

Joint forces of the National Bureau of Investigations - Anti-Human Trafficking Division (NBI-AHTRAD) and the Philippine National Police - Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) arrested the man for possession of CSEM with intent to sell, distribute, publish or broadcast, committed through the use of information communications technology.

Partner agencies from the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) – namely, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (NCA), and non-government organization International Justice Mission (IJM) – supported the operation.

NBI-AHTRAD Chief, Atty. Janet Francisco expressed that this arrest was testament to their commitment and resolve to fight the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC). She adds, “It was a group effort, and a clear demonstration of how collaboration works, to our advantage. Certainly, there are others like him out there waiting for the opportunity to prey on helpless children, but one thing is more certain, that we are likewise waiting for the opportunity to get them!”

PNP-WCPC Chief, PBGEN William Macavinta was ashamed that Europol's number one on the list of sexual offenders is a Filipino who had abused numerous Filipino children.

“The message is very clear. Regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator or wherever he is, the WCPC will support working under PICACC to ensure global cooperation and response until the Philippines is protected from those who victimize our innocent children using the internet,” Macavinta said.

In September 2018, Queensland Police Service (QPS) forwarded a referral to the AFP who in turn referred the case to NBI and PNP. Armed with evidence acquired during investigations, a search warrant was secured on 11 April 2019 and a 32 year old man was arrested.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz, National Manager Crime Operations, said the arrest highlighted the impact of cross-border collaboration between foreign law enforcement in combatting the online sexual exploitation of children.

“The AFP is committed to combatting transnational child sexual exploitation, whether the offending and victims are in Australia or abroad. The arrest of such significant suspect who is accused of abusing children to produce CSEM for international dark-web distribution highlights the value of international collaboration provided by the PICACC,” Assistant Commissioner Platz said.

Children rescued

A total of eight children – neighbors and acquaintances of the suspect, were protected. In total, five children from Cebu City, one child from Liloan and two children from Iligan City were identified and given trauma-informed interventions.

All children rescued have been reintegrated back to their families and will continue to receive trauma-informed interventions.

A press release on his arrest had been embargoed due to ongoing investigations that stemmed from the arrest. Online child sexual exploitation facilitators typically share content and contacts with other local facilitators. Hence, the release of information close to the date of arrest, could potentially work against the deterrence of the crime.

All new online child sexual exploitation referrals are directed to the PICACC which opened in February 2019. The PICACC is a collective effort to combat child exploitation across the Philippines by law enforcement – the PNP, the NBI, the AFP, and the NCA; in partnership with non-government organization, IJM. This collaborative international effort protects children through an enhanced global response to combatting OSEC.

NCA Director Rob Jones said: “This case truly represents how important the PICACC and international partners are to each other in protecting children and ensuring there’s no safe place for those with a sexual interest in children.

“There is no greater priority to the NCA than catching these offenders. We are very proud to have been a part of the team that brought this suspect to justice,” Jones said.