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Child Sex Abuse: CBI Raids 56 Locations In Nationwide Crackdown On Child Sexual Abuse Material

Child Sexual Abuse Material refers to the possession, viewing, and sharing of material with sexual acts involving children.

Representative photo of CBI
Representative photo of CBI Photo: PTI

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday carried out searches at 59 locations across India in a child sex abuse investigation. 

The CBI raided 59 locations in 21 states and a Union territory in connection with two cases of circulation of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) online as part of Operation Megha Chakra, officials said, adding that it was an internationally coordinated operation with over 50 suspects in India.

The searches were based on inputs from Interpol Singapore and intelligence obtained during last year's Operation Carbon, conducted against peddlers of CSAM on the internet using cloud storage, according to officials. The New Zealand Police had shared original inputs with Interpol in Singapore.

CSAM is what was previously commonly referred to as "child pornography". It specifically refers to the possession, viewing, sharing, and creation of images or videos containing sexual or offensive material involving children, according to The Conversation

The CBI operation is targeted at cloud storage facilities used by the peddlers to circulate audio-visuals of illicit sexual activities with minors, thus earning the code 'Megha Chakra'. 

The CBI is questioning suspects about illicit material found on their electronic devices so as to identify the victims and the abusers, a CBI spokesperson said. 

The spokesperson said, "It was alleged that a number of Indian citizens were involved in circulation/downloading/transmission of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) using cloud-based storage. The said information received in Interpol from Law enforcement authorities of New Zealand was analysed and developed by CBI, and suspected persons were identified to locate and disrupt further distribution."

A large number of electronic devices including mobile phones and laptops belonging to more than 50 suspects were recovered during the raids, said officials.

"Preliminary scrutiny of these electronic devices using cyber forensic tools has allegedly revealed the presence of huge quantity of CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material) in a number of electronic devices" the CBI spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said Operation Megha Chakra is one of the major CBI-led global operations in recent times as a rapid response to online child sexual exploitation with international linkages and organised cyber-enabled financial crimes, where victims, accused, suspects, conspirators are located across global jurisdictions, requiring a internationally coordinated law-enforcement response.  

"The operation will collate information from law-enforcement agencies in India, engage with agencies globally and coordinate closely through Interpol channels to combat online child sexual exploitation and such organized cyber criminal activities," said the CBI.

The CBI, which is hosting the 90th Interpol General Assembly next month, said coordination meetings were organised with the Interpol and foreign law-enforcement agencies for sharing critical information to dismantle such cybercrime networks. 

The searches were spread across Haryana, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh among others, officials said.

(With PTI inputs)

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