New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday arrested seven people as part of a crackdown on an international network suspected of online sexual exploitation of children. The arrests followed raids in 77 locations across 13 states and one Union territory, with two more put behind bars on Thursday.
The raids, the CBI said, were carried out after the discovery of an online child sexual abuse operation that is believed to involve more than 50 unions and 5,000 individuals in 100 countries.
According to CBI sources, the nexus was engaged in the online distribution of child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) for monetary benefit.
The illegal operation, the sources said, came to the attention of CBI about three months ago. After “intensive information gathering and monitoring in the most remote parts of the country over a three month period,” the agency carried out raids in several locations on November 14, a source told ThePrint.
Raids in India were carried out in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, in addition to Delhi.
The CBI said in a statement that it seized numerous laptops, cellphones and other electronic gadgets during the raids. The agency filed 23 cases against 83 people. While nine people have been arrested so far, the CBI source cited above said more arrests are likely.
Read also: Married at 13, assaulted, victim of trafficking: what a minor Beed “raped by her father, her husband, 400 men” alleges
Untangling the network
The first contributions to the investigation, sources said, were provided by the CBI’s Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation Prevention / Online Investigation Unit (OCSAE), which was established in 2019 to track and monitor the publication, broadcast and downloads of CSEM on the site. the Internet.
The sources added that investigators followed a trail of money from e-wallets and bank accounts to catch the accused. The actual amount involved in the racketeering is still under investigation, a second source said, but confirmed that foreign funds were also being tracked.
“The defendants disseminated child abuse content online through links, videos, images, texts, posts and hosted such things on social media platforms,” ââthe source said.
ThePrint accessed one of 23 FIRs, filed against a group of individuals in Jhansi, who made the same allegation.
FIR said “individuals based in different parts of India and foreign countries” “circulated, stored and viewed child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) [using] social media groups / platforms and third-party storage / hosting platforms â.
Pakistan’s international “link” to the United States
According to the sources, the alleged network of child sexual abuse extends far beyond the borders of India and involves people from Pakistan, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Nigeria, from Ghana, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia, among other countries.
âIt’s part of a larger connection,â the second CBI source said. “Thirty-six of the identified telephone numbers were detected in Pakistan, 35 in Canada and the United Kingdom, 31 in Bangladesh, 30 in Sri Lanka, 28 in Nigeria, 27 in Azerbaijan, 24 in Yemen and 22 in Malaysia”, the statement said. source added.
The CBI is now coordinating with foreign law enforcement agencies to get to the root of the entire network. The agency is also raising the subject with social media sites and hosting platforms, the sources said.
The second CBI source cited above said that the online child sexual exploitation material market in India appears to be significant.
âAccording to Interpol, around 2.4 million searches were performed for online child pornography content in India between 2017 and 2020, and 80% of children were girls under the age of 14. fast rate. Findings show search engines receive over 1,16,000 requests for child pornography every day, âthe source said.
Last year, OCSAE had stopped a junior engineer from Banda, Uttar Pradesh for allegedly sexually abusing around 50 children over a decade and uploading photos and videos of the abuse to the dark web.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
Read also: Child pornography gets watertight definition in Modi government’s POCSO amendment bill
Why the news media is in crisis and how to fix it
India needs free, fair, uninhibited and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media are in a crisis of their own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, giving in to crass spectacle in prime time.
ThePrint employs the best young reporters, columnists and editors. To maintain journalism of this quality, it takes smart, thoughtful people like you to pay the price. Whether you live in India or abroad, you can do it here.
Support our journalism