Online child abuse

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

We hear a lot about human trafficking and, in particular, sex trafficking. We hear about the women found dead or dying with needles in their arms, often beaten, regularly diseased and we are rightly appalled. But this is the neatly packaged, western, developed country, even sanitised end of the trade. There is worse, much worse....

One evening, sitting by the fire in my cottage in Essex, England, I watched a documentary about the abuse visited on children by sex tourists and the work done by Fr. Shay Cullen in Manila.

I thought about what I had seen and did research. I found that there was infrastructure for European, Australian and American men, in particular, to visit The Philippines and take part in the worst depravity that could be visited on children. Boys as young as nine years old, buggered over and over again and paid USD1, were left in gutters to die. Young girls, some not much more than babies, were - and there is no other word that carries such violent shock - fucked almost to death through every available orifice, the size of the men literally tearing the girls' insides to make space for his pleasure. Some ended up on rubbish tips, dying and being eaten by rats.

Parents in rural Philippines sent their children to the city where they were abused and an industry grew up of photographing and filming abuse and selling this pornography. And this was pre-internet. Technology has changed nothing except to shorten and to a degree obfuscate the lines of communication and to ease the making of payments. And today, as 4G and 5G role out and as mobile phones record in high definition, the market has moved : no longer is it entirely based in the slums and cheap hotels of Manila and its suburbs but now any barn can be a studio for a couple of hours and rural parents can - and do - sell their children over and over again.

I'd dealt with nasty child abuse cases - in both criminal and family courts. Once a barrister had to pull me off a defendant after I had defended and secured a conviction on a much reduced charge only for the **** to tell me exactly how he had achieved what I and a team of medics had proved was impossible. I couldn't tell the police what I'd learned and in any case, there was autrefois acquit to deal with but I could still kick the shit out of him and would have but for wiser heads, that day, than mine. Today, almost 40 years later, the anger wells up inside me every time I remember him. I can remember the extraordinary work we put in, the battery of tests I researched in those pre-internet days and ordered, the doctors who I persuaded to give entirely honest evidence to prove his inability to perform. I can remember sitting in the hallway of my flat in London, my wife trying not to hear what my telephone calls were about. Even today, as I remember, I can still smell him. I can still visualise the cell beneath the court where I set about him. Even after this, when I started to dig into the systematic abuse of children, mainly in the Far East, I was still horrified.

It wasn't only sexual abuse: in India, I found that parents in remote areas sent their children to beg on city streets. Damaged beggars earn more so their legs and/or arms were broken and deformity set in.

There was a market in "Friday Night" prostitutes in Bangkok: girls who worked in proper jobs all week sent almost their entire income to rural families then sold themselves on Fridays to pay for their own living expenses.

I wrote about it in How Not to be a money launderer in 1996 and I included it in training courses for much of the next quarter of a century. I included it in my work on the use and abuse of the internet for financial crime since 1999. Make no mistake: this is financial crime that gives the lie to the statement that e.g. money laundering is a victimless crime.

The Internet has widened the marketing opportunities for the criminals behind all of these crimes. Ease and affordability of money transmission has oiled the wheels of live streaming of both sex shows and the most base forms of abuse. Some blame "the dark web" but that's just ignorance: it's the darkness in people that's to blame and people will always find ways to find gratification for their vile interests. Improved mobile phones and 4-5G has expanded the availability of victims far outside the usual places: now children can be kidnapped to order off the street anywhere in the world to star in a pervert's fantasy as he sits in the peace and quiet of his own world. Have credit card, order your atrocity.

This is why one of the first Financial Crime Forum events we decided to run in the current series is on the facilitation of on-line abuse of minors and the payment mechanisms. We've got plenty of time: it's listed for June next year. And we've chosen to go to what is, in many respects, ground zero.

Manila.

Joseph Scaramucci (USA) and Manoj Abraham (India) have confirmed that, provisionally, they will speak. We are arranging speakers on border control issues with immigration departments, financial movements with banks and FIUs. Tech speakers will demonstrate exactly how the abuse is arranged and investigators will give behind the scenes insights into the pervert hunters.

www.financialcrimeforum.com .