Australian police reveal dark web probe led to arrest of paedophile in S'wak

·4-min read
Australian police reveal dark web probe led to arrest of paedophile in S'wak
Australian police reveal dark web probe led to arrest of paedophile in S'wak

On Aug 17, a man who pleaded guilty to 14 charges of molesting five young boys was sentenced to 16 years in prison and 12 strokes of the cane, in three different cases at the Sessions Courts in Kuching, according to news reports.

The Dayakdaily reported that Alladin Lanim had allegedly molested children at a plantation and on the verandah of a house in Lundu, a town 83km west of the Sarawak capital.

He had induced them to view pornographic material by letting them play a game on his phone and proceeded to molest them.

In a scenario similar to that of convicted paedophile Richard Huckle, Alladin was actually exposed by an undercover probe carried out on the dark web by special investigators from Australia.

The capture and charging of Alladin were due in no small part to the work of specialist investigators from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Queensland Police and the Australian Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac).

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Alladin was one of global law enforcement’s most wanted child sex offenders and had been operating for at least 14 years without detection.

He had been abusing children between the ages of two and 16, boasting on messaging forums on the 'dark web' about recording his crimes.

The dark web is a less accessible part of the Internet where, among other things, paedophiles exchange illegal photos and videos of child sexual abuse.

Alladin had been sharing child abuse material on the web since 2007 and linked to more than 1,000 images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of minors.

In 2019, he was identified by a multi-national internal police report listing his online alias as one of the top 10 offenders in the world in the exploitation of children on the Internet.

Prolific sharing made him high priority

“He was so prolific with so many victims, that’s why he became a high priority,” said Detective Sergeant Daniel Burnicle, the acting senior officer for the AFP in Kuala Lumpur.

Initially, police had nothing more beyond his anonymous online profile but in August 2020, experts at the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation’s Victim Identification Unit made a breakthrough.

The AFP-led operation, which includes members of Queensland police’s Argus taskforce for child victim identification, came across a social media image of the man they suspected they were looking for.

After sending the picture to Malaysia, AFP officers in Kuala Lumpur, the Royal Malaysia Police and United States Homeland Security investigators then raced to put a name to the face in the photo.

This is with the knowledge that more children were likely to be in danger as the search was ongoing. In fact, the Sydney Morning Herald said four children aged nine to 14 were eventually rescued from Alladin.

“It’s just a slow, methodical burn. They’re going through images trying to work out where that location may be so they can follow up. It’s all very difficult with the dark web to track people.

“This (investigation) was all, of course, done during Covid-19, which made it all the more difficult in terms of being able to get around the country and just conduct those basic field inquiries that you would do,” said Burnicle.

A team at Austrac trawled through financial and other records, and finally matched his image with one that had been forwarded to Kuala Lumpur from Australia months earlier, this time with identifying information attached.

With Alladin's identity blown, his ghastly game was almost up, but police still had to catch him.

In July, Australian investigators assisted in tracking him to a state Covid-19 quarantine facility, where he was serving a mandatory quarantine after arriving back in Sarawak following a trip to Peninsular Malaysia.

When he stepped out of quarantine on July 5, he was promptly arrested. Alladin pleaded guilty after being confronted with the evidence against him.

When contacted, Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division (D11) Assistant Commissioner Siti Kamsiah Hassan told Malaysiakini that thus far, the police have identified four victims.

All of them have made a report and the cases have been brought to the Kuching court, she added.

"The other victims have not been identified as there are no complete details and some incidents happened a long time ago.

"D11 is still in the process of identifying other victims and we will continue to work with various agencies, including the AFP," she said.

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