Toronto police announced on Thursday that law enforcement agencies in Canada, United States and the United Kingdom have made a total of 153 arrests in connection with an international child sexual abuse investigation, which also resulted in the rescue of a dozen children.
Police said during a press conference in Toronto that the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom first started the investigation in 2014 when they were looking into an online group allegedly involved in the sexual abuse of children.
The probe, nicknamed Project Mercury, eventually expanded to include Toronto police and law enforcement agencies in the United States.
Toronto police said they observed the live-stream sexual abuse of a six-year-old child in July 2015, which then led to the arrests of 20 people. The child was rescued.
In March 2016, the Toronto police exploitation unit discovered sexual abuse material involving an eight-year-old child and advertisements online.
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Thirty-four-year-old Kenneth Bowman of Saskatoon was convicted of six counts, including sexual assault, administering a noxious thing and making arrangements to commit a sexual offence against a child. The child was also rescued.
Investigators said police in other jurisdictions, such as Alberta, also observed the live-stream sexual abuse of children. In two cases, one in December 2015 and another in October 2017, a dozen arrests were made and two children were rescued.
Forty-year-old Anthony Graves of Edmonton was convicted of four offences, including making and accessing child pornography.
Since 2014, a total of 153 arrests have been made and those convicted have been sentenced to between 30 months and 60 years in prison. A number of cases are still before the courts.
Authorities are urging anyone who is aware of online child sexual abuse to call their local police.
-with files from The Canadian Press