• Monday, 15 April 2024

39 suspects identified in major online child sexual abuse swoop in Balkans

39 suspects identified in major online child sexual abuse swoop in Balkans

Skopje, 20 November 2023 (MIA) – As part of a major joint operation against child sexual exploitation in the Balkan region, police conducted 41 raids that led to the identification of 39 suspected child abusers and 200 items containing images or videos of child sexual abuse seized, said North Macedonia’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) which participated in the joint operation dubbed “Mozaik 2023” led by the Slovenian National Police and coordinated by Europol in the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT). 


A series of enforcement actions were carried out as part of the joint operation between 6 to 17 November.


“Police officers from the Cybercrime Sector at the Ministry of Interior were actively involved in the operation "Mozaik 2023" and successfully carried out two raids in the area of ​​Skopje between 13 to 17 November in coordination with the Skopje Basic Public Prosecutor's Office and the Basic Criminal Court Skopje, during which they seized 12 computer devices, i.e. three desktop computers, three laptop computers, one hard disk, one USB stick, one memory card and four mobile devices. Police interviews were also conducted with five individuals,” the MoI said in a press release. 


According to the Ministry, operation “Mozaik 2023” aimed to identify and arrest people using online forums and messaging applications to share and distribute child sexual abuse material. 


Participating countries in the operation included the Western Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary.


“Europol facilitated the information exchange between all the countries involved, and further enhanced the operational picture in the region by cross-checking the seized data and providing intelligence packages to continue the investigative work in this region and beyond,” reads the press release. 


In the framework of EMPACT, it adds, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre have teamed up to establish an expert network in the Western Balkans with the goal to strengthen cross-border cooperation in the fight against child sexual abuse. 


Europol’s ‘Say No!’ prevention campaign has been made available to all the countries in the Western Balkan region in their own national language. 


“This campaign includes a 10-minute long video which portrays two teenagers, a boy and a girl, being exploited online by a criminal organisation for financial gain and by an individual online sexual offender seeking further sexual material, respectively. The video includes advice as to how such crimes may be reported to law enforcement and how to avoid falling victim in the first place. This video has been shared with parents, children and teachers to raise awareness in the Western Balkans about child sexual abuse,” said the Interior Ministry. 


Photo: MIA archive