THE CENTRAL Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday registered a case against a 30-year-old man living in Mumbai for allegedly exploiting children by selling their sexually explicit images. These children are based out of several foreign countries, including US and some in Europe and South Asia. He had contacted over 1,000 persons as part of the alleged racket.
According to officers, the accused would claim to be working in the film industry and exploit minors under the pretext of offering them roles through a photo sharing social media platform. The agency is looking if anyone else is involved in the crime.
An official said the accused claims he is a junior film artist and the CBI is verifying his claim. Searches were carried out at the Mumbai residence of the accused and his mobile and laptop were seized. Prima facie forensic scanning of his devices have revealed material related to online sexual abuse, said an officer.
CBI Spokesperson RK Gaur said, “We have registered a case and further investigation is on in the matter.” Sources said the accused, who hails from Haridwar but had been residing in Mumbai, would chat with children from various countries using Instagram.
An official said the accused had contacted over 1,000 users, including minors aged between 10 and 16, from various countries using the app.
“The accused would claim to be from film industry and start chatting with children by promising to get them roles,” a source said. The accused would start chatting with them and also make video calls. He would get them to strike compromising poses under the guise of landing them roles. He would then sell these images and videos to clients in various countries.
If the child refused to continue, he would blackmail them by threatening to upload the images on the internet. The police have charged the accused under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Officials said they are trying to find out who else was involved in the racket.
Earlier this week, the CBI had booked another person for allegedly selling Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) for Rs 250 on messaging application Telegram, where he sold these through three groups.
There has been a boost to India’s fight against CSAM ever since the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a US-based non profit that works to prevent child exploitation, started sharing tip-offs about child pornography in India with Indian agencies.
After the agreement between the two countries, India also amended POCSO Act last year to widen the scope of child pornography to go beyond videos. The Indian Express had reported in January this year about NCMEC reports stating 25,000 cases of child pornography being registered from India. In what was termed ‘operation blackface’, cases were re-registered across the country against such offenders.
In 2019, the CBI had set up a special unit on ‘Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention/ Investigation (OCSAE)’ that now follows up cases of CSAM and carries out such investigations.
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