Officials announced on Tuesday that 79 men in the US were arrested and 43 have been convicted in connection with the global dark web group that shared sick abuse videos.
Police in Australia have also charged a further 19 men there with 138 offenses and 13 children have been ‘removed from harm’, including some who were ‘directly abused’.
The international investigation was launched after FBI Special Agents Daniel Alfin, 36, and Laura Schwartzenberger, 43, were killed in February 2021 as they executed a search warrant on the home of suspected pedophile David Lee Huber, 55.
Huber, a divorced father-of-two, shot the agents with a rifle then turned the gun on himself.
The pedophile network was traced back to Australia and officials there worked closely with the FBI to shut it down. Most of the 19 Australian suspects – men aged between 32 and 81 – ‘were employed in occupations that required a high degree of ICT knowledge’, police said.
‘Members used software to anonymously share files, chat on message boards and access websites within the network,’ the Australian Federal Police said.
‘Network members were able to search for and distribute images and videos of child abuse material and allegedly used encryption and other methods to avoid law enforcement detection.’
FBI Legal Attaché Nitiana Mann said: ‘We are proud of our longstanding relationship with the Australian Federal Police resulting in 19 Australian men facing criminal prosecution as a result of our collaborative investigation.
‘The complexity and anonymity of these platforms means that no agency or country can fight these threats alone.
‘As we continue to build bridges through collaboration and teamwork, we can ensure the good guys win and the bad guys lose.’
Australian Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett said: ‘If you choose to offend against children, it is only a matter of time before police come knocking on your door.
‘Together with our law enforcement counterparts, we will continue to use every power available to us to put those targeting children behind bars.’
Police behind the huge investigation, dubbed Operation Bakis, found videos of one suspect abusing a toddler. He was raided exactly one year after the FBI agents were murdered.
Police said his hard drives included 16,000 files involving 800 child victims. He also had a ‘pedophile handbook’ with instructions on how to deal with police if caught.