A Geelong man has been charged following an investigation by the Victorian Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET) into the creation of an online child exploitation game.
The 31-year-old man was arrested at his home address on Wednesday, 2 August.
He was subsequently charged by Victoria Police detectives with the Commonwealth offences of controlling, producing and possessing child abuse material, as well as deal with proceeds of crime.
The man faced Geelong Magistrates’ Court and was bailed to appear again on 5 December.
A warrant was executed at his residence by members of JACET, comprising members from Victoria Police and the AFP, with assistance from the AFP’s Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT).
Ahead of the warrants, the CACT successfully restrained all property of the suspect, including two vehicles, high-end televisions and audio-visual equipment, furniture and appliances which were seized at the warrants. It will be alleged that this property is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime, derived from the offending in this matter.
The investigation commenced in May this year after information about an online child exploitation game was uncovered by the ABF and provided to police.
The platform is entirely comprised of animated images, which is an offence in Australia.
The AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) Covert Online Engagement Unit also supported the operation.
It’s believed a number of people across Australia and internationally had paid subscriptions to the game and enquiries remain ongoing in relation to those subscribers.
Police allege the 31-year-old man charged was the creator and operator of the game.
This is the first time in Victoria that an investigation has focused on a locally created platform of this nature.
Police will work with the eSafety Commissioner in relation to the removal of the game.
The investigation into this matter remains ongoing.
The CACT, which brings together the resources and expertise of the AFP, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC and Australian Border Force, traces, restrains and confiscates benefits and property derived from crime.
Confiscated funds are deposited into the Confiscated Assets Account, which is managed by the Australian Financial Security Authority on behalf of the Commonwealth and can be invested in programs that benefit the community, such as crime prevention or diversion programs.
Anyone with information about people involved in child abuse is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report at www.crmestoppers.com.au
If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on triple zero (000).
If you or someone you know is impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation, support services are available via the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation at www.accce.gov.au/support
Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found at www.thinkuknow.org.au
For more information on the role of the ACCCE, what is online child sexual exploitation and how to report it visit www.accce.gov.au
Quotes attributable to Commander Paul O’Halloran, Victoria Police:
“This is a landmark investigation and one that really highlights the insidious nature of child exploitation and the many forms it can take.
“For someone to create this kind of platform and treat this crime theme as a game, is completely horrifying especially when that person is essentially in our own backyard.
“While the material on the platform does not involve live children, it has been created to mimic that and this is clearly of great concern to us.
“Today’s arrest and the work around removing the assets obtained through it’s creation are testament to the joint approach across many law enforcement agencies to target those involved in the creation of child abuse material and hold them to account.”
AFP ACCCE and Human Exploitation Commander Helen Schneider said all forms of child exploitation including programs that allowed predators to simulate offending against children was abhorrent and investigated with the highest priority.
“Simulated offending against our community’s most vulnerable – our children – is a criminal offence and the AFP will relentlessly pursue anyone involved in providing an online platform for predators to engage in this vile offending,” Commander Schneider said.
“The AFP-led ACCCE’s high-level covert online capability has helped shine the spotlight on this significant joint operation. This capability should serve as a clear warning to predators online – we see you, and we will stop you.”
AFP Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) Commander Paula Hudson said the AFP-led CACT had a strong record of restraining and confiscating the ill-gotten wealth and assets of alleged offenders across all forms of criminal offending including from those profiting from child exploitation.
“We allege the accused has obtained significant financial benefits from the creation and distribution of this online child exploitation platform,” Commander Hudson said.
“This action shows that the AFP will not tolerate anyone trying to cash in on the abuse of children by enabling predators to pay for simulated exploitation of children. We will trace and locate any ill-gotten gains and take them from offenders.
“This is the first time the AFP has restrained the assets of an alleged online child sex predator in Victoria, and we will continue to target the assets of offenders who profit from this abhorrent crime.”