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The sexual abuse of minors overseas is a financial crime. Prosecutors just need to look beyond the obvious.

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

In "How not to be a money launderer" (1996) I explained how sex tourism, particularly for reasons of child abuse, is a financial crime. In the past month or so, Australia has convicted two abusers. It's time to look at those who facilitate this heinous crime

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Between July 2015 and August 2019, Collen Teoxon Dixon travelled to the Philippines and engaged in, or attempted to engage in, sexual intercourse with children under 16 years of age and produced child pornography material (by recording this offending) on multiple occasions. Dixon’s offending involved at least thirteen child victims.

On 19 September 2023, Willie Arthur Mareko was convicted of 18 offences contrary to provisions of the Commonwealth Criminal Code . Mr Mareko pleaded guilty to all offences and sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment to serve at least 8 years in detention. But he didn't travel: Over a 3 and a half year period between 2018 and 2021 Mr Willie Arthur Mareko sexually abused Filipino children over the internet, facilitated by women he met over social media who received payment for the abuse.

In the case of Mereko, it's clear that there was profit and that is for the authorities in the Philippines to investigate and prosecute, which they do try to do.

In the case of Dixon, it's a little more difficult but someone arranged things for him and there is an electronic evidence trail. He has paid for flights and accommodation.

The question is why did no one notice. He had a mental health condition which was taken into account on sentencing : apparently it "reduced his moral culpability" - which I translate as saying he the court accepted that, to an extent, he didn't know it was wrong.

That's hard to accept: "The sentencing judge found that Mr Dixon had a long-term sexual interest in children and observed that the child victims of Mr Dixon’s offending had been treated as sexual commodities and were likely [to be] vulnerable, not only due to their age, but also due to their socio-economic circumstances," says the federal prosecutor's office.

DIxon judgment: https://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/187b0b07e7524f1b193e63e3

Nigel Morris-Cotterill is a financial crime risk and compliance strategist. He can be contacted at www.countermoneylaundering.com

So, young children from poor backgrounds can be bought and sold for sex or other abusive practices and it's less serious if the criminal says "I think I was doing anything wrong"?

Not a lot has changed since 1996 despite all the hoo hah in the media and the window dressing by governments if characters like this can so easily continue with their abuse over long periods.

Well done AUS for finding one traveller and one internet fiend

But it's a drop in the ocean and clearly something different needs to be done.