More than 39 suspects identified in operation against online child sexual abuse

More than 39 suspects have been identified in a major operation against online child sexual abuse in the Western Balkans, in which the Croatian police participated as well, the Croatian Ministry of the Interior said on Monday.

The purpose of the operation, in which along with Croatia also participating were the law enforcement authorities of Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Hungary, was to uncover online child sexual abuse and prevent new cases as well as protect potential victims and punish the perpetrators.

During the operation, which lasted from 6 to 19 November, the Croatian police identified eight perpetrators, conducted nine searches of the suspects’ homes and seized more than 50 digital devices for data storage.

In the course of the operation, one child, a Croatian victim, was identified, was taken care of and any further abuse was stopped.

The police have confirmed that the Croatian nationals suspected in the case have committed seven criminal acts, and and that some of the investigations are continuing.

The operation was headed by the Slovenian police force and was coordinated by Europol as part of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats.

Forty-one raids were carried out in the countries involved, as a follow-up to investigations into the sharing of photographs and videos showing child sexual abuse, which resulted in the arrest of three suspects and the issuing of indictments for criminal offences related to the distribution of photographs showing child abuse.

During the operation more than 200 items were seized containing photographs or video recordings of child sexual abuse, including computers, mobile phones, computer servers and memory cards.

Europol helped with the exchange of information between the countries involved, cross-checked the confiscated material and provided intelligence data for the purpose of continuing the investigations in the region and beyond, the ministry said.