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07 April 2011

Europol joins the Virtual Global Taskforce

One of the largest online child protection taskforces has welcomed another new member. Chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), Australian Federal Police (AFP) Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, officially welcomed Europol to the VGT during VGT meetings held in Abu Dhabi.

The VGT now consists of nine international law enforcement agencies providing an even stronger presence world-wide and greater global reach to combat online child sexual exploitation.

"I welcome Europol to the VGT and I look forward to working together with this agency to eradicate online child abuse worldwide. Their membership further enhances the VGT strategic direction and with their assistance, the worldwide law enforcement presence and efforts online will continue to go from strength to strength.

"Expanding our membership to Europol should send a clear message to the predators lurking in cyberspace that there is a large police presence in the online realm. We are very serious about tracking you down and holding you to account, no matter where you are in the world," Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said.

Director of Europol Rob Wainwright says that the partnership will strengthen the fight against online child abuse.

"Europol looks forward to making a valuable contribution to the work of the Virtual Global Taskforce, relying on its unique capabilities as the EU law enforcement agency.

"For many years it has pioneered an effective response in Europe to the problem of child sexual abuse online. Combining this with the excellent work of the Virtual Global Taskforce will deliver a serious impact against the activities of child sex offenders everywhere," Rob Wainwright said.

The VGT shares information and intelligence to run joint international law enforcement operations. By joining the VGT, Europol have made a commitment to cooperate with other VGT countries across international borders to tackle online child sexual exploitation crimes on a global scale.

Other members of the VGT include the AFP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (UK), the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Italian Postal and Communication Police Service, INTERPOL, Ministry of Interior for the United Arab Emirates and the New Zealand Police.

Six of the nine VGT member agencies were recently involved in Operation Rescue, which targeted 670 offenders and resulted in 230 children being safeguarded and 184 offenders being arrested across the globe.

Information gathered during the operation has now been shared with INTERPOL for comparison against its International Child Sexual Exploitation image database (ICSE), a powerful intelligence and investigative tool which allows victim identification specialists around the world to share data for analysis with a view to identifying and locating abused children.

Backed by the G8 and funded by the European Commission, ICSE is accessible to victim identification specialists through INTERPOL's secure I-24/7 global police communications system, and uses sophisticated image comparison software to make connections between victims and places, and has already assisted in the identification and rescue of 2,162 victims in 40 countries and the arrest of 1,217 offenders.