Dalby man charged in international child abuse operation

A DALBY man has been charged with five counts of possessing child exploitation material after an international operation swooped in on his home.

The Dalby man is one of five offenders charged in Queensland on a total of 30 charges, following investigations into an illicit online marketplace where users paid for access to child abuse material.

The five charges were from January 2020 and he is due to 'appear' in the Dalby Magistrates Court on May 26 for mention.

A two-year effort by Australian law enforcement and the United States Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has resulted in 16 people in Australia being charged with 738 child exploitation offences.

Starting in 2018, matters were regularly referred to Australian authorities by HSI following their investigations into an online web site where users paid to access child abuse material.

The investigation involved officers from state and territory police, working together with the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) and the Australian Federal Police's Joint Anti Child Exploitation Teams.

Australian police partnered with international law enforcement, including investigators from the HSI office in Phoenix, Arizona, who initiated the investigation into an illicit online marketplace where users paid for access to child abuse material.

With the assistance of the HSI Cyber Crimes Centre, the HSI EL Paso Forensics Program, HSI International Operations, HSI Forced Child Labor Unit, INTERPOL and EUROPOL, information on registered users of the illicit marketplace was disseminated to multiple states in the United States and to international partners around the world, including Australian law enforcement.

The ACCCE-facilitated Australian response, Operation Walwa, captures the collective effort of the AFP, state and territory police and Joint Anti Child Exploitation Teams (JACETs).

In total, Australian investigators executed 18 search warrants and arrested 16 people on 738 charges.

Authorities were able to remove four Australian children from further harm.

AFP Assistant Commissioner ACCCE and Child Protection Lesa Gale said the results of Operation Walwa were a timely reminder of the risks associated with children being online.

"This has been a long-running joint effort by law enforcement across Australia and we're happy to see the results that can be achieved when resources are used together, particular in the current online environment," she said.

HSI Australia Attaché Adam Parks said the arrests came at a critical time.

"More so than ever, children are increasingly online for their schooling, to socialise with their friends and family, and to play games," Attaché Parks said.

"Let this be a warning that law enforcement is undeterred by COVID-19 and remains on-duty to keep our children safe in Australia, the U.S., and online."

Detective Superintendent Denzil Clark from the Queensland Police Service Child Abuse and Sexual Crimes Group said strong law enforcement partnerships and a whole-of-community response are crucial to protect children from online predators.

"Queensland Police will continue sharing our expertise and working collaboratively with our national, interstate and international counterparts to target those who pose a risk to children in our community," he said.

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in the possession or sharing of child exploitation material 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 at www.accce.gov.au/report.