23 men arrested in raids targeting online child abuse material
Twenty-three men, aged between 22 and 61, were arrested by the police in an islandwide operation targeting online child sexual exploitation activities.
A 44-year-old man is also being investigated, the police said on Monday.
The men are suspected of possessing, distributing and gaining access to child abuse materials, transmission of obscene materials, and possession of obscene films.
In the five-week operation, Criminal Investigation Department officers raided multiple locations and seized electronic devices such as computers, mobile phones and hard disks.
Some of the men have been referred to the Home Team Community Assistance and Referral Scheme (HT Cares), the police said.
“Social workers, also known as Cares officers, will conduct social triaging on the men” to assess whether further intervention is needed, they added.
Under the HT Cares initiative, social workers stationed at police divisions help to identify issues that led offenders to commit crimes and refer them to suitable agencies for help in areas such as financial assistance or employment.
Crimes these offenders committed include family violence, shop theft and illegal gambling, according to previous media reports, but sex offenders are also referred to this initiative so that social workers can determine the most appropriate intervention for them.
Last Friday, a 30-year-old man was sentenced to six months and six weeks’ jail after pleading guilty to being in possession of child pornography, among other offences.
Muhammad Khairy Ariffin had owned a Twitter account containing sexually explicit material and made 816 obscene videos for sale, and was later caught with 203 sexually explicit videos – made by other people – of children.
He admitted in a district court that he once had in his possession a total of 1,282 sexually explicit images and videos of children. He was caught in a raid in April 2020, when he was 16 years old.
Those convicted of possessing or gaining access to child abuse material can be jailed for up to five years and fined or caned.
Those convicted of distributing, selling or offering child abuse material for sale, or have in their possession child abuse material for the purpose of such distribution, may be jailed for up to seven years and may also be fined or caned.
Any person convicted of possessing any obscene film may be fined up to $20,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both.
The police said they would continue to take tough enforcement action against online child sexual exploitation activities, including possession and distribution of child abuse materials.
Those found engaging in such activities will be dealt with sternly in accordance with the law, they said.