Police have smashed a Philippines paedophile ring and arrested 17 Britons after joining forces with authorities in Australia and the US during a two-year investigation.
The Philippines inquiry, Operation Endeavour, spanned 12 countries and focuses on what the UK's National Crime Agency describes as “a significant and emerging threat”, particularly in developing countries.
Three other investigations are currently underway into live streaming of child sex abuse, with 139 Britons among the 733 suspects. Five of the 17 British suspects arrested have been convicted, nine investigations are ongoing, one will face no further action and two are dead.
A BBC report found also evidence of ‘cybersex’ dens in the slums in the south Philippines, where parents would bring their children to be abused.
Officer Denis Comunay, who patrols the Ibabaon slum said: “You can get easy money from the cybersex.” He showed the broadcaster a house which had been raided by police where “fathers and mothers would bring their children here to show, and would get paid by the owner of the house.” He said the owner of the house had forced her own children to “perform” in front of a web cam for foreigners.
The inquiry began after Northamptonshire Police visited registered sex offender Timothy Ford and began tracking the international abuse network from obscene videos they found on his computer.
He was paying to view live sex and was jailed for eight-and-a-half years in March last year.
He paid as little as £13 to view the abuse of five children. Officers said he had planned to move to the Philippines to open an internet café.
Andy Baker from the National Crime Agency said: “This investigation has identified some extremely dangerous child sexual offenders who believed paying for children to be abused to order was something they could get away with.
“Being thousands of miles away makes no difference to their guilt. In my mind they are just as responsible for the abuse of these children as the contact abusers overseas.
“Protecting the victims of abuse is our priority and that means attacking every link in the chain, from dismantling the organised groups who are motivated by profit through to targeting their customers.”
Another member of the paedophile network, Thomas Owen was jailed for seven years in July 2013. Police discovered he had nearly four million images of child abuse when he was arrested.
In a statement, the NCA said: “The use of webcams to stream live abuse, particularly from the developing world, is a significant and emerging threat according to the NCA's CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) command.
"Extreme poverty, the increasing availability of high-speed internet and the existence of a vast and comparatively wealthy overseas customer base has led to organised crime groups exploiting children for financial gain.“