Abuse material still circulating in ‘dark corners’ of internet as sex predator jailed

Published:  Fri 10 Dec 2021

An internet sex predator has been jailed after grooming victims to abuse themselves, siblings and children, and selling “box sets” of abuse, as the IWF warns footage of his victims’ sexual abuse is still circulating in “dark corners” of the internet.

Abdul Hasib Elahi, 26, admitted 158 offences. According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), he blackmailed victims into abusing themselves, as well as their own siblings and children.

Today (December 10) he was jailed for 32 years.

The NCA said some of his victims were adults, while others were children, with some being as young as eight months old.

According to the NCA, Elahi of Sparkhill, Birmingham even sold the footage of this abuse as “box sets” to other offenders while providing “master classes” to help other online predators avoid detection.

The NCA say their investigation showed there were at least 196 victims, including children, in the UK and that he had contacted at least 600 people online in the UK.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the UK-based charity responsible for finding and removing child sexual abuse material from the internet.

The charity is still finding images and videos of Elahi’s victims. To date, they have taken action against more than 1,600 URLs containing material featuring children he has targeted. This material is all derived from five or six children known to the IWF and the police.

An IWF internet content analyst who asked to remain anonymous said images and videos of Elahi’s victims are still circulating online, with IWF staff still working to have them removed.

The analyst said: “We’ve actioned at least 1,600 URLs that feature victims from Operation Makedom (the police operation to bring Elahi to justice).

“In some dark corners of the internet we find images of Makedom victims being requested, and there are also some sites that appear dedicated to hosting images and videos of his victims.

“I can also confirm that we do have instances of self-generated sibling abuse including children of both genders, that are Elahi victims.

“We have some on our URL blocking list, and we do find them via public reports or during proactive work. These are the ones we know about - there may be other unknown or unconfirmed victims’ images circulating too.

“There are a couple of confirmed victims whose images are quite widely spread. We have hashed the images.”

Hashing an image reduces it to a digital fingerprint which can be used across the world to prevent material being shared online.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “Appalling crimes like this are becoming more and more prevalent as predatory and cynical abusers find new ways to reach and manipulate victims.

“Elahi is now being made to pay for what he has done, but his victims are still living with a sentence all of their own, with the images of their abuse being shared online after all this time.

“The abuse, for so many, does not go away, and the knowledge the videos and images are still in circulation will cast a pall over them for years to come.

“That we have actioned such a large amount of material relating to such a small handful of his victims is frightening. You have to wonder how much more is out there, and how much abuse those children must have suffered because of him.

“Our analysts are working tirelessly to scour the internet to get this material taken down. Our hashing technology is also helping to reduce the chances that those images will be found on popular platforms.”

Between January and June this year, 64,278 of the reports the IWF has dealt with have been confirmed to contain “self-generated material” where children have been tricked, groomed, or coerced into abusing themselves on camera.

This material is often filmed in the victims’ own bedrooms, and can be of the most severe sexual abuse. This compares to 40,672 reports which the IWF determined to contain self-generated material in the first six months of 2020.

In a snapshot study in 2020, the IWF identified 511 self-generated child sexual abuse images and videos which were determined to involve siblings who had been coerced into abuse.

This equates to eight images or videos each working day. In 65% of cases, one or both children engaged in direct sexual contact with the other.

Elahi was sentenced on December 8, 9 and 10 at Birmingham Crown Court.

Anybody who believes they may have been a victim of Elahi, or have information on his offending can contact the NCA at Op.Makedom@nca.gov.uk

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