By Alexander Schummer
TORONTO (Reuters) -A Canada and New Zealand joint police operation led to the arrest of 47 Canadians for online child sexual exploitation and the release of 12 children on Wednesday, Canadian federal police said.
The collaboration, dubbed “Operation H,” was launched in New Zealand in 2019, by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) Digital Child Exploitation Team, after receiving an alert that a “large number” of subscribers were using an unnamed platform to share some of the “most graphic”, “horrific”, and “violent” child sexual abuse material online.
The team advised the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s National Child Exploitation Crime Centre (NCECC) of a secure cloud storage site, where over 90,000 online accounts were identified in New Zealand as having “possessed or traded sexual abuse material”. Many more have been identified around the globe, including Canada.
Wednesday’s arrests spanned across multiple Canadian provinces and the individuals were charged for possession of child pornography, among other crimes. They will appear in court later this year.
The two-year investigation has led to 186 charges being laid in Canada. The investigations are still ongoing.
“Online child sexual exploitation is borderless and is among the most heinous crimes targeting our most vulnerable – our children,” Andre Boileau, the officer in charge of the NCECC said in the statement.
Between 2020-2021, the NCECC received 52,306 reports, complaints, and request for assistance for online child sexual exploitation; a 510% increase from a report in 2013-2014.
The operation has brought together national and international agencies including Europol, Interpol, and the Five Eyes. In total, 12 countries were involved, with 832 international cases investigated and 146 children safeguarded.
“Operation H is a prime example of how global collaboration can help all of our countries to protect children,” Boileau added.
(Reporting by Alexander SchummerEditing by Marguerita Choy)