Today the joint Operation Atlantic, conducted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and several EU Member States (MS), was finalised under the coordination of Europol. After more than a year of investigations in the Member States, 37 child sex offenders have been identified. Among these offenders, 17 were arrested for child sexual molestation and production of illegal content. Moreover, 8 victims have been identified. In this respect, the investigation continues, to eventually identify further victims.
The case was launched after an operational meeting was held in The Hague between the FBI and Europol officers in November 2010. Intelligence gathered by the FBI during a long and complex investigation was distributed by Europol to France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK in December 2010.
Analysis carried out by Europol revealed further links of several suspects to previous operations against child sex offenders. In this respect Europol produced five reports relating to nine targets. In particular, two targets were already members of the ‘Boylover’ network, tackled by the previous Europol-coordinated Operation Rescue. The remaining seven targets were members of other paedophile networks, still under investigation. The above investigative and reporting activities facilitated the identification process in the EU countries which led to the detection of a network of offenders that were producing and distributing images depicting the severe abuse of children, in some cases toddlers and infants. The investigative activity also led to the identification of child sex molesters and several victims who had been sexually abused by these criminals.
In order to strengthen the cooperation and guarantee the effectiveness of this case, the FBI seconded an investigator to the Europol Child Sexual Exploitation Team for two months in the summer of 2011.
Operation Atlantic has been the first joint operation conducted by the FBI and Europol in the crime field of child sexual exploitation. The success of this case was remarked upon by Europol’s Director, Rob Wainwright, who said: “Collaboration and cooperation between Europol and our international law enforcement partners such as the FBI is essential if we are to bring these child sex abuse networks to justice and prevent the distribution of child exploitation material across the internet. This is another excellent result in this crime area and Europol is ready and willing to support ongoing and future operations to infiltrate these networks.”
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller also remarked about the success of the Atlantic case declaring that: “Online child predators and child exploitation are not just an American problem. They are global problems. The FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners around the world, such as Europol, to combat these horrendous crimes. We share actionable intelligence and resources to keep children safe and bring those who do them harm to justice.”