Police in the UK, US, and Australia have dismantled an international ring of pedophiles accused of streaming live video of child abuse from the Philippines. As BBC News reports, authorities have so far arrested 29 people as part of "Operation Endeavor," an investigation spanning 14 countries. The investigation into the Philippines network was launched in 2012 by the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA), the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Australian Federal Police.
The suspects in question are accused of paying to see children being abused online, in what the NCA describes as "significant and emerging threat," particularly in the developing world. Payments totaled more than £37,500 ($61,268), authorities say, with some of that going directly to family members who were complicit in selling video of their children. So far, 15 children between the ages of six and 15 have been taken into custody, after being identified as victims.
"Being thousands of miles away makes no difference to their guilt."
In addition to Operation Endeavor, there are three ongoing investigations into child abuse rings, and 733 suspects have been identified. The NCA says crime groups have focused their efforts on developing countries, where high poverty rates and greater internet connectivity have made it easier to exploit children for cash. Several suspects have already been convicted, including Timothy Ford, whose 2012 arrest sparked Operation Endeavor. According to UK authorities, Ford planned to buy an internet cafe in the Philippines and rent out rooms to people on so-called "pedopal vacations."
"This investigation has identified some extremely dangerous child sexual offenders who believed paying for children to be abused to order was something they could get away with," Andy Baker, Deputy Director of the NCA’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) command, said in a statement Thursday. "Being thousands of miles away makes no difference to their guilt. In my mind they are just as responsible for the abuse of these children as the contact abusers overseas."