Guatemala: Global collaborative investigation nets suspected child sexual abuser

6 August 2021
The eight child victims identified were removed from harm and safeguarded, receiving appropriate psycho-social support.

Zacapa, Guatemala: A suspected prolific child sexual abuser has been arrested by Guatemalan law enforcement in a police operation supported by INTERPOL.

In an investigation that began in February 2017, specialized law enforcement officers from around the world worked together through INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database to identify eight child victims – aged approximately between seven and 17 years old – of a 45-year old offender operating on the dark web.

INTERPOL’s crimes against children unit supported the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office against Human Trafficking – part of Guatemala’s Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministerio Público) to identify and locate the offender, a Guatemalan man taken into custody on 27 July.

The suspect has been charged with multiple offences, including human trafficking; production, distribution and possession of child sexual exploitation material; sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism; and drug possession.

National investigators from Australia, Brazil, France and Switzerland cooperated with INTERPOL over years to comb through the substantial amount of child sexual abuse materials produced by this single offender over a 10-year period and piece together his identity as well as those of his victims.

“The cross-border nature of the Internet invariably makes the crime of online child sexual exploitation an international one,” said Stephen Kavanagh, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services. “International police cooperation and information-sharing throughout all stages of an investigation is crucial to protecting children and holding perpetrators to account.”

Over 26,000 victims identified

INTERPOL’s ICSE database uses image and video comparison software to help investigators worldwide in the daunting task of identifying the victims, abusers and places that appear in such materials.

The database avoids duplication of effort and saves precious time by letting investigators know whether a series of images has already been discovered or identified in another country, or whether it has similar features to other images. It also allows specialized investigators from more than 66 countries to exchange information with their colleagues across the world.

To date, the ICSE database has allowed investigators to identify over 26,000 victims around the world, as well as nearly 12,000 offenders.