INTERPOL supports New Zealand-led international operation into online child sexual abuse material

2 March 2022
146 children safeguarded internationally

LYON, France – An international operation led by New Zealand’s Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has identified more than 90,000 online accounts that have possessed or traded child sexual abuse material.

In what officials have called ‘the largest and most challenging online child exploitation operation led out of New Zealand’, the DIA brought together international law enforcement agencies, including INTERPOL, to assist and coordinate what became hundreds of investigations across the world.

The Operation, Codenamed ‘H’, was launched in October 2019 by DIA’s Digital Child Exploitation Team following an alert from an Electronic Service Provider who had found tens of thousands of offenders using the platform to share some of the most horrific and devastating child sexual abuse material online.

The two-year long operation has produced the following results:

  • 46 New Zealand based individuals arrested
  • 836 cases investigated internationally
  • 146 children safeguarded internationally

Tim Houston, Manager Digital Child Exploitation Team and lead for Operation H, highlighted how this operation and the prosecutions that will follow represent a major success in international efforts to undermine and disestablish the environments and networks that seek to exploit children.

“I commend the ongoing support of our law enforcement partners domestically and across the world for their dedication and hard-work. This operation will have an impact on the global networks that deal in the most horrific and damaging material, and we are extraordinarily proud of the effect it will have on children’s lives around the world,” said Mr Houston.

To support New Zealand’s efforts and ensure a global net was cast, INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children (CAC) unit disseminated referral packages to 130 countries, concerning approximately 153,000 accounts. The unit then actively engaged with 58 member countries to provide them with the child abuse material relevant to subjects in their jurisdiction, as well as related intelligence.

INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children (CAC) unit disseminated referral packages to 130 countries, concerning approximately 153,000 accounts.

The referral process has afforded the opportunity for many INTERPOL member countries to exercise and improve their operational capacity around online child sexual exploitation. An actionable intelligence referral like those from Operation H allows INTERPOL to follow-up, provide support and guidance and use the referral as an avenue for capacity building and further action.

Additionally, a selection of images and videos was uploaded to INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database, contributing to further investigations aimed at identifying victims and offenders. The database currently includes material and information relating to more than 27,700 identified victims and some 12,500 offenders worldwide, as well as images and videos depicting the abuse of victims yet to be safeguarded.