International operation swoops on child sexual abusers trading online images

22 May 2012

LYON, France – A global operation targeting individuals using social networking groups to exchange child abuse material has targeted 55 key suspects in 20 countries. The operation saw 12 children identified and removed from harm and a number of suspects arrested.

Codenamed Laminar, the operation began in October 2010 as a covert online investigation by New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) Censorship Compliance Unit which alerted INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children team after identifying significant amounts of abusive and exploitative pictures being exchanged via social network sites, including Facebook, Socialgo, and, and alerted international law enforcement agencies.

Working with the Child Exploitation Investigations unit (CEIU) of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity section, the investigation coordinated by INTERPOL led to the identification of nearly 80 groups engaged in the display or distribution of previously seen and unseen child sexual abuse images.

The investigation was conducted with the support and assistance of Facebook officials following the identification of key targets and their associated groups within their network.

Maarten Quivooy, General Manager of New Zealand’s Regulatory Compliance Operations, said the Internet had destroyed jurisdictional boundaries and that protecting children was a global responsibility to which the DIA was committed.

“Trading in, or viewing these images is active offending because it involves real children often being abused both in real time and over time, and when these images of children being sexually abused are released onto the Internet, they live on forever,” said Mr Quivooy.

“No crime impacts on us as society and as parents more deeply than the abuse of innocent children by the people they should be able to trust above all others. Terms such as kiddiporn and child pornography make the physical sexual abuse of a child appear consenting. No child is capable of consenting to sexual activity —therefore all sexual depiction of children is abuse,” he concluded.

Praising New Zealand’s initiative in launching the original investigation, the Head of INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children unit, Mick Moran, said the operation once again demonstrated the need for international cooperation.

“It is said that the Internet has no boundaries, but that does not mean that laws do not apply, that people committing offences online will not be identified. There is no safe environment or anonymous area for individuals who think that they can trade and publish child abuse images online, as proved once again by this operation which should serve as a warning to others – you will be caught,” said Mr Moran.

“While disrupting these networks is a significant part of the investigation, what is more important is that innocent children and in some cases babies have been rescued from physical abuse,” added Mr Moran.

“Operation Laminar demonstrates that when governments team up to attack the global distribution of images of child sexual abuse the success is real,” said ICE Director John Morton.

“ICE will continue to work tirelessly with our international law enforcement partners to protect children wherever they live and to bring justice to criminals wherever they operate.”

The 55 key targets in Operation Laminar were identified as individuals who had actively created groups which distributed abusive material, posted images of infants under the age of 13 being abused, and had actively encouraged the sexual abuse of children through comments or video and photo postings.

The 20 countries with identified targets are Australia, Bosnia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, England, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Tunisia, Turkey, the United States and Venezuela. For more information about individual cases please contact the national authorities of the country concerned.

Media contacts

  • New Zealand - Trevor Henry, senior communications adviser, Department of Internal Affairs Tel: +64 (0)4 495 7211; cell +64 (0)21 245 8642
  • INTERPOL – Communications & Publications Office
  • US – Dani Bennett, ICE Public Affairs, Tel +1 813 230 9825