CBI conducts raids across states in child porn crackdown

Updated on Sep 25, 2022 06:14 AM IST

Raids were conducted in Haryana, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Goa, Rajasthan, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh, the agency said.

During searches, the CBI recovered electronic devices — including mobiles, laptops — belonging to over 50 suspects.
During searches, the CBI recovered electronic devices — including mobiles, laptops — belonging to over 50 suspects.
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday carried out searches at 59 locations in 21 states and Union territories as part of its “Operation Megh Chakra” against circulating and sharing of child sexual abuse material online, people familiar with the development said.

The operation, the officials said, was initiated based on inputs shared by the Interpol. The original input about persons involved in alleged posting and circulation of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) through various social media platforms was shared by Interpol, New Zealand, which were passed on to CBI through Singapore.

“In a painstaking and meticulous Operation Megh Chakra, CBI today conducted nationwide searches at 59 locations in 21 states and UTs… in two cases related to downloading/circulation of child sexual abuse material,” CBI said in a statement.

Raids were conducted in Haryana, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Goa, Rajasthan, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh, the agency said.

During searches, electronic devices — including mobiles, laptops — belonging to over 50 suspects have been recovered, the agency said. Preliminary scrutiny of these electronic devices using cyber forensic tools has allegedly revealed the presence of huge quantity of CSAM in a number of electronic devices, said a senior officer familiar with the development.

“Those raided are involved in sharing objectionable child sexual abuse material on different social media groups,” said the officer, requesting anonymity. “The suspects are being questioned with regard to the CSAM found in their electronic devices so as to identify the child victims and the abusers.”

“Two persons have been picked up by CBI in child pornography case (registered in Delhi) from Thana Saraswati Nagar area in Raipur,” said Superintendent of Police , Raipur, Prashant Agarwal.

CBI has registered two cases under relevant provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 based on inputs received from Interpol, Singapore. “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,” CBI said in the statement.

Saturday’s crackdown was a follow up of a similar “Operation Carbon”, which was carried out by the federal agency in November 2021, when raids were conducted at 76 locations across the country against 83 people that had led to several arrests.

The aim of the current operation is to target cloud storage facilities used by miscreants to circulate child sexual abuse material, thus earning the code name “Operation Megh Chakra”.

CBI is the nodal agency for the Interpol, which has an International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) image and video database, which allows investigators from member countries to share data on cases of child sexual abuse. Used by 64 countries, including India, ICSE has helped identify 23,500 survivors and 10,752 offenders worldwide from its database of 2.3 million images and videos. It has provision of sharing data in open network that can be accessed by all the countries or shared with specific countries.

The federal anti-corruption probe agency has also constituted a special Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (OCSAE) Prevention/ Investigation unit since 2019 for probing matters pertaining to online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Besides receiving various references/information, the unit undertakes investigation of various offences relating to online child sexual abuse and exploitation. It collates and investigates information received from the embassies and overseas federal probe agencies about organised rackets that are active in online child sexual abuse and exploitation.

“The CBI has taken a lead in investigating and sharing information on CSEM cases,” said a second officer, also wishing not to be named. “After last year’s operation, information was shared by us with at least 100 countries about suspicious accounts and social media groups which were sharing the child sexual abuse data.”

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