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20 Queensland children rescued from global child exploitation ring

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More than 20 young Queensland children have been saved from online child exploitation and 58 people arrested in the State as part of a global police operation.

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Operation Molto, led by Australian Federal Police as part of a multinational task force, which concluded its work on Wednesday, resulted in 153 children worldwide being saved, including 51 Australian children.

Across the country, 158 search warrants were executed and 117 men were arrested and face 1248 charges.

The alleged offenders were using a cloud storage platform to share what police say was abhorrent child abuse material online and some of those in Australia are also accused of producing their own child abuse material.

Operation Molto started its work in 2019 and investigators from Queensland Police Task Force Argos identified and investigated the Queensland user accounts which were linked to the cloud storage platform.

Search warrants were executed from the Gold Coast to Cairns and from Toowoomba to Mt Isa, as part of the operation.

A 26-year-old Kingaroy man is due to appear in Kingaroy Magistrates Court on March 3 on four counts of possessing child exploitation material, five counts of making child exploitation material, three counts of using a carriage service to access child abuse material and three counts of using a carriage service to distribute child abuse material.

It will be alleged that the man was found in possession of a large volume of child exploitation material depicting the sexual abuse of babies and toddlers.

And a 30-year-old man from the Somerset region has been charged with 50 offences and it is alleged that he was sexually exploiting two children under 10 and using an online platform to access and transmit child exploitation material.

He faces multiple counts of rape and indecent treatment of a child, using a carriage service to access and transmit child abuse material and weapons offences.

The 30-year-old has been remanded in custody to appear at the Brisbane Magistrates Court on March 21.

Crime and Intelligence Command acting Assistant Commissioner Denzil Clark said the results of the operation highlight the tenacity of Queensland Police in protecting the community.

“The possession of child exploitation material is not a victimless crime. Anyone involved in possessing or sharing these images continues the cycle of victimisation and abuse of the children depicted in this material,” he said.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Lesa Gale said the operation illustrated that victims are at the front of mind for law enforcement.

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

Those arrested in Australia were employed in a range of occupations, including construction, transport, law enforcement and hospitality.

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