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Investigation rescues scores of SA children from abuse

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In the past four years, 85 South Australian children have been removed from harm thanks to a joint federal-state investigative team working to combat the scourge of child sexual abuse.

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Since the Join Anti Child Exploitation Team was established in 2015, it has launched 508 investigations.

Its work came into sharp focus recently with the arrest of Adelaide serial sex offender Ruecha Tokputza.

The 31-year-old was recently jailed for more than 40 years for his abuse of 11 babies and children.

JACET identifies, investigates and charges those offending against children, predominantly those involved in online sexual exploitation.

In SA, the team has fifteen specialist investigators from the local force and the Australian Federal Police.

In the Tokputza case, their investigations began in November 2017 after exploitation videos were linked to a server in Bulgaria, which linked to an IP address in Adelaide.

In January, 11 children were rescued once their location was identified in Thailand.

Search warrants were executed globally, including one for Tokputza’s home, and he was connected to the IP address.

A member of the SA JACET Sergeant Stephen Hegarty said on Sunday that sharing child exploitation material was not a victimless offence.

“Our priority is to identify children who are in the worst possible scenarios and rescue them wherever they are in the world,” Hegarty said.

It was “powerful and moving” knowing international collaboration was at the forefront of the investigation, he said.

To prosecute Tokputza, he had to analyse nearly 900,000 videos, files and images to identify the victims.

“It’s by far the most difficult case I’ve had to work through,” he said.

“Our focus may be on the protection of children in SA but if there’s a nexus with crimes overseas then we will hunt you down and we will catch you.”

Last week, INTERPOL confirmed the two-year SA investigation led to referrals to 60 countries, 50 victims being removed from harm, an additional 100 children were identified as suffering abuse, and nine sex offenders being arrested.

-AAP

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