The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Child sex abuse network kingpin jailed

30 April 2010

A Wellington man responsible for the security of an international criminal network trading in child sex abuse pictures was jailed today for four and half years in the Wellington District Court.

The 32-year-old sickness beneficiary, pleaded guilty to 10 charges of distributing and 51 of possessing objectionable material and one count of making an intimate visual recording.

Crown solicitor, Tom Gilbert, told the court that in terms of the degree of organisation and scale, the case was unprecedented in New Zealand. Most child sex abuse material is exchanged in far simpler methods than in this case. There was no case of similar scale to this offending.

In October 2007 the United States Secret Service discovered an international, organised criminal network trading and distributing images of child sexual abuse on the Internet.

A joint operation involving the USSS, the Department of Internal Affairs, NZ Police and the US Department of Homeland Security subsequently identified the man and a United States based offender, who has since been jailed for 18 years, operating the network. The secret Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel was used to trade many millions of child sex abuse pictures and movies exclusively between its members – exact number unknown but exceeding100 active members.

The man was responsible for the security of the channel and acted as administrator and gatekeeper. He employed high level security, including substantial encryption and 40 character passwords, to prevent unauthorised access.
In May 2008, a highly co-ordinated raid involving authorities in both the United States and Wellington, caught the offender at a Kilbirnie Crescent address operating his computer on line. Police, including members of the Armed Offenders Squad, prevented him from disconnecting the equipment, which would have made data irrecoverable.

The hard drive was fully encrypted and data could only be accessed while the computer was connected and running. Internal Affairs inspectors took over the computer and stayed on line for the next five days gathering offending material.

The man was detected primarily exchanging files using a process called File Transfer Protocol which leaves fewer traces of data for detection on the Internet than IRC.

In January 2009, while he awaited prosecution, police arrested him for secretly filming up a woman’s dress as she stood at traffic lights. His laptop computer was seized and DIA inspectors found more than 8300 pictures and movies of girls ranging from infants to 14 years old engaged in a range of sexual activity. He had also accessed some 16,000 objectionable images from an external hard drive and had been covertly filming women in the Wellington region.

A further search warrant was executed on the man's address on 31 March 2009 and another computer seized. Analysis showed that a collection of more than 3700 images of children engaged in sexual activities was created after the May 2008 raid.

Internal Affairs Deputy Secretary Keith Manch paid tribute to the forensic work undertaken by the Department’s censorship compliance unit and the international co-operation that led to the prosecution. The investigation will have led to other ‘targets’ being identified.

“Remaining on-line for five days to gather the evidence shows the dedication of our team and the lengths they will go to in prosecuting these people,” he said. “And the events are a prime example of how we work with overseas agencies to track down child porn traders, despite their best efforts to conceal offending.”

Media contact:
Keith Manch, Deputy Secretary, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 495 9329; cell 021 227 6363
Trevor Henry, communications adviser, Department of Internal Affairs
Ph 04 495 7211; cell 0275 843 679