Child molester busted

Under arrest- (Reuters)

Under arrest- (Reuters)

JOHANNESBURG – A suspected paedophile – working as a maintenance manager at luxury private game reserves and hotels in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga – allegedly used his “adopted” son to lure teenage boys for sale to sex tourists. The Times can reveal that, in the latest child-porn scandal to hit this country, a 59-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly manufacturing and possessing child pornography.

The latest revelation came to light as Childline highlighted a “very serious problem” relating to the increase in child exploitation related to tourism.

The suspect, who cannot be named until he has pleaded, was released on R50000 bail in the Durban Magistrate’s Court last week. His arrest in June had been kept under wraps by the police, amid fears for the safety of the children involved.

Only three weeks ago six suspects, including headmasters, a teacher and a lawyer, were arrested for their alleged involvement in an international online child pornography ring.

In the most recent case, the suspect, a manager at an upmarket Durban beachfront hotel at the time of his arrest, was caught at his Bluff home.

He was arrested after a neighbour, who shares a wi-fi network with him, alerted the police when she found what she regarded as child pornography on shared computer files.

The police – who cannot say if the man is linked to the international child pornography syndicate – believe his arrest might expose one of the country’s largest child-sex rings.

Thousands of photographs and negatives, some apparently dating back to the 1970s, were seized in the raid on the accused’s home.

A 21-year-old man, said to have been “adopted” by the suspect when he was an eight-year-old, is believed to have been used by the arrested man to recruit children for pornography.

The negatives allegedly contain images of teenage boys, including the man now 21, being abused.

Along with photographs and negatives, detectives seized computers equipped with powerful encrypting software.

The photographs, according to police sources, were shot in both rural and urban areas. A number are believed to have been taken at well-known game farms and hotels – some geared to international tourism – in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The police have seized two computers, a laptop computer and a cellphone.

“There are thousands of pictures . investigators, who include members of the cyber crimes investigative unit, have not even gone through all of the computers, which are so well encrypted that uncovering images is incredibly difficult,” said a police source.

“The deciphering is vital to the investigation. The [encrypted data] hold the key to the identity of hundreds of victims and potential suspects.”

Officers said what was “particularly concerning” was the age of some of the images.

Police are investigating what happened to the children in the photographs.

“We are following up on some harrowing allegations, one of which is that, while working at these lodges and hotels, he ‘sold’ or ‘rented’ some of the children to sex-tourists. They are allegations but it is a very real fear,” said one officer.

A source with knowledge of the case said the arrested man pretended to be the boy’s father.

“The allegations are that he used his ‘adopted’ child, for whom he cannot provide adoption papers, to recruit other children for sexual exploitation. This case is extremely sensitive . there are so many issues to consider, including the lives of young children.”

Childline’s national marketing manager, Joan van Niekerk, yesterday revealed startling findings from her research into children being used to recruit other children for pornography.

“Our preliminary reports show South Africa is facing a very serious problem compounded by things such as sexual child exploitation through tourism, which is increasing.”

Van Niekerk, who spoke this week in White River, Mpumalanga – where a private-school headmaster was arrested for alleged involvement in the international child porn ring – said her research showed there was an increase in children recruiting others for pornography and the exploitation of children for tourism.

“There is very real reason for people to be concerned.”

Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed the seizure of computers, photographs and DVDs and said the suspect had been released on R50 000 bail.

KwaZulu-Natal National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Natasha Ramkisson said the accused faces charges of possession of, and creation of, child pornography and was granted bail following delays in the investigation.

“He has to report three times a week to Brighton Beach police station and must have no contact with his adopted son.” – The Times.

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