AUSTRALIA (NewsNation Now)— Australian police said Friday they arrested 44 men and rescued 16 children from across the country as part of a year-long nationwide investigation into child exploitation.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are leading “Operation Molto,” which has led to 350 charges.
Arrests of all the suspects, aged 19 to 57, were made in every state and the Australian Capital Territory.
Those detained were employed in a range of occupations including law enforcement, construction and transport.
The AFP said it began the investigation after receiving a report claiming thousands of people were using an unspecified cloud storage platform to spread child abuse material.
“And in the 12 months alone, the ACCCE (Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation) has intercepted and examined more than 250,000 child abuse material files,” said Commissioner Reece Kershaw. “And of these, 44 referrals were made to ACCCE’s Victim Identification Team, making up more than 4,000 images and 2,200 videos.”
Kershaw also said that identifying and rescuing victims was a “race against time.”
A total of 134 children have been rescued between July 2019 and June 2020, the AFP said, including 67 internationally, as a result of its investigations.