44 arrested, 16 children rescued over ‘abhorrent’ child exploitation ring

Police have arrested 44 people and rescued 16 children from following a major operation targeting child exploitation across Australia.

Operation Molto identified offenders in all Australian states as part of a year-long investigation.

The operation was prompted by a law enforcement report which found thousands of offenders were using a cloud storage service to share child abuse material online.


Police also allege that some of the offenders were also producing their own child abuse material.

Some of those arrested were in possession of material produced by a man arrested back in 2015 which has been described as the most abhorrent produced.

Those arrested are aged between 19 and 57 years old with Police laying 350 charges.

Police arrested 11 people in Victoria on 105 charges and removed six children from harm.

Eight offenders were arrested in New South Wales on 49 charges with one child removed from harm in that state.

In Queensland, 11 people have been charged with 114 offences while two children have been rescued.

Nine people have been arrested in South Australia while six children have been removed from harm.

Two men have been charged in Western Australia.

PHOTO: Australian Federal Police

AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said while the hard-work, diligence and co-operation of police should be recognised, victims remained front of mind for law enforcement agencies.

“Arresting offenders and putting them before the court is only half the battle,’’ Commissioner Kershaw said.

“Identifying victims is a race against time and the ACCCE’s victim identification team is relentless in rescuing children from sexual abuse.

“Pixel by pixel, our investigators painstakingly look for clues and never give up and the tools they use give Australian police access to world leading expertise.

“Viewing, distributing or producing child exploitation material is a crime. Children are not commodities and the AFP and its partner agencies work around-the-clock to identify and prosecute offenders.”

The AFP has removed 134 children from harm between July last year and June this year.

It has also led to more than 250,000 files of child abuse material being intercepted.